As part of the American Bar Association's ( ABA's ) midyear national meeting, the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity ( SOGI ) presented the annual Stonewall Award to three longtime LGBT-rights activists. In this, the commission's second year of presenting the award, the organization seeks to honor those in the profession of law who have worked diligently behind the scenes to make strides for sexual equality.
[Photo gallery at the link www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/photospreadthumbs.php .]
On Feb. 8 in the Crystal Ballroom of Chicago's Hyatt Regency ( while a snowstorm continued outside ), the point was made that a lot of progress had been made in the last year but that there was far more that needed to be accomplished. This year's recipients included the Hon. Stephen Whittle, OBE, a professor of equalities law at Manchester Metropolitan University in England. In 1975, at the age of 19, Whittle made the transition to living permanently in his preferred gender, later co-founding Press for Change as well as the first local and national trans support groups in the United Kingdom. His accomplishments have led the United Kingdom to implement the Gender Recognition Act while providing legal advice to approximately 250 trans individuals a year.
Another honoree was the Hon. Elaine D. Kaplan. As acting director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Kaplan not only has set benefit policies for 1.9 million federal civilian employees but has overseen the implementation of two presidential memoranda extending benefits to LGBT federal employees. Kaplan also served as counsel for OPM as a defendant in the DOMA cases before the Supreme Court.
Lastly, there was the Hon. James C. Nelson. During his nearly 20 years as a justice on the Montana Supreme Court Nelson authored a landmark decision in 1977 that declared the state felony sodomy statute unconstitutional. Now in retirement Nelson remains an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights.
The brief award ceremony began with an address by ABA President James R. Silkenat; Commission Chair James Holmes presided over the event. Many, if not most of the association's members and guests in attendance, came from as far away as Manchester, Rhode Island and Montana.