GLAA Announces 2009 Distinguished Service Awards
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Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
P.O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013

For Release:
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Contact: Rick Rosendall

GLAA Announces 2009 Distinguished Service Awards

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., is pleased to announce its 2009 Distinguished Service Award recipients. GLAA presents awards to local individuals and organizations that have served the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community in the national capital area. The awards will be presented at GLAA’s 38th Anniversary Reception on Wednesday, April 22, at the Washington Plaza Hotel.

GLAA’s 2009 Distinguished Service Award recipients are:

Martin Murray founded the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman more than 20 years ago to foster an appreciation of the legacy left by the Great Gray (and Gay) Poet during his stay in the Washington area from 1863 to 1873. The Friends include a broad variety of poetry lovers, scholars, researchers, historians, members of the GLBT community, and others who share a passion for all things Whitman. The Friends sponsor annual talks and tours on Whitman’s connection to Washington, DC, meet-the-author events for new books about Whitman’s life and legacy, and occasional trips to sites relevant to Whitman’s life. Martin is a nationally known expert in his own right for his contributions to Whitman scholarship, including a definitive biography of Walt’s lover Peter Doyle. He helped to spearhead the highly successful local year-long commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Leaves of Grass.

Nancy D. Polikoff is a gay rights activist, American University law professor, and author of Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law, published by Beacon Press in 2008. (See The book is the first in Beacon’s Queer Ideas series, edited by Michael Bronski. Nancy has been working on issues involving lesbian and gay families for more than 30 years and is a member of the National Family Law Advisory Council of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Before joining the faculty at American University Washington College of Law, she was one of the founders of a feminist law collective and she directed family law programs at the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. Her articles have appeared in numerous law reviews, and her history of the development of the law affecting lesbian and gay parenting appears as a chapter in J. D'Emilio, W. Turner, and U. Vaid, eds., Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights (2000). She helped develop the legal theories in support of second-parent adoption and visitation rights for legally unrecognized parents, and she was successful counsel in In re M.M.D., the 1995 case that established joint adoption for lesbian and gay couples in the District of Columbia, and Boswell v. Boswell, the 1998 Maryland case overturning restrictions on a gay noncustodial father's visitation rights. Nancy is a contributing blogger for The Bilerico Project and also blogs at

Rabbi Robert J. Saks will retire this June after 18 years of service as rabbi of Congregation Bet Mishpachah, DC's GLBT synagogue. His service to our community goes back at least to the 1980s, when, as Executive Director of the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation at the University of Maryland, he was a voice for acceptance and inclusion of gay Jews and invited members of Bet Mishpachah to speak to Hillel gatherings. As Bet Mishpachah’s rabbi, he has not only served the congregation ably, but has also been a pro-gay voice of Judaism in the wider community, including speaking before rabbinic organizations, government bodies, and the media. Among other things, he provided testimony in the complaint of Roland Pool and Michael Geller against the Boy Scouts before the DC Human Rights Commission, and challenged the failure of Washington Jewish Week to include same-sex nuptial announcements in their pages.

Alan Sharpe is founding artistic director of African-American Collective Theater (ACT), a theater and film production company whose primary focus since 1971 has been to showcase contemporary BLGBT life and culture. Author of numerous plays with that focus, including HeartBeats, Family Business, BrotherHOODS, and Skin & Bone, Sharpe is a member of Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s “Playground” writers’ workshop, as well as the “Kitchen” project at Round House Theatre. He was selected for last summer’s 2008 Playwrights’ Intensive at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is past recipient of several theater fellowships and Larry Neal dramatic writing awards from the D.C. Commission on the Arts. Shortly after learning he was HIV+, his screenplay Party was produced in New York City by AidsFilms, in conjunction with Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD). He has subsequently directed many additional original plays, as well as his scripts for several gay-themed films including, Check-Out Time, Moment of Truth, All in the Timing, and a digital dramatic series online, based upon his play, Chump ChangeS. Over the Memorial Day 2009 weekend, ACT will present its eleventh consecutive showcase reading of a new play, in observation of BLGBT pride.

DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) is a grassroots community-based organization dedicated to fighting for the human rights, dignity, and equal access for transgender and gender-diverse people in the District of Columbia. It helped assemble a broad coalition of local and national groups in the summer of 2008 in response to a draft rulemaking from the D.C. Office of the Attorney General which would have provided what amounted to an exemption for the D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) from the provisions of the D.C. Human Rights Act prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Those efforts led to months of negotiations and an improved policy regarding the placement and treatment of transgender detainees in DOC custody, though the coalition’s advocacy and vigilance continue.

Just Detention International (JDI) is an international human rights organization dedicated to ending sexual violence in all forms of detention. JDI has three core goals for its work: to advocate for policies that ensure institutional accountability for prisoner rape; to transform ill-informed public attitudes about sexual violence in detention; and to promote access to resources for those who have survived this form of abuse. JDI makes a special effort to protect exceptionally vulnerable inmates – chief among them lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) detainees – and considers bridge-building among LGBTQ and allied organizations central to that effort.

Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs has spent 40 years representing individuals and groups seeking to vindicate their civil rights. It has handled over 5,000 civil rights cases, in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other aspects of urban life. It represents people with claims of discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, disability, age, religion, and sexual orientation. It assists immigrants seeking asylum and other help. It works for education reform in the DC Public Schools. The Committee’s litigation efforts have become nationally known for landmark court victories, record judgments, and precedent-setting consent decrees. Its capacity to mobilize the private bar has enabled the Committee to provide its clients more than 50,000 hours of quality legal representation every year. Its D.C. Prisoners’ Project advocates for the humane treatment and dignity of all persons convicted or charged with a criminal offense under D.C. law housed in prisons, jails or community corrections programs, to assist their family members with prison-related issues, and to promote progressive criminal justice reform. The Prisoners' Project remains the only legal organization with a mission of advocating for the interests of over 7,000 D.C. prisoners currently held in 99 different federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities across the country, in addition to more than 3,500 held in the D.C. Jail and the Correctional Treatment Facility.

A list of previous award winners can be found on the GLAA website at

Founded in 1971, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA) is an all-volunteer, non-partisan, non-profit political organization that defends the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgenders in the Nation’s Capital. GLAA lobbies the DC Council, monitors government agencies, educates and rates local candidates, and works in coalitions to defend the safety, health, and equal rights of gay families. GLAA remains the nation's oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization.