by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, announced September 7 that they will honor Chaz Bono, Michele and Rob Reiner, Wells Fargo, Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts, and the 2011 Student Advocate of the Year at its seventh annual Respect Awards - Los Angeles, held on October 21 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The annual Respect Awards showcase the work of corporations, individuals, students, and educators who have made a significant difference in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and the safe schools movement, and who serve as exemplary role models. This year's Respect Awards - Los Angeles will take place on the last day of GLSEN's Ally Week, held in schools across the country to identify, support, and celebrate allies.
'GLSEN is thrilled to honor these amazing supporters, advocates, and partners who have helped propel our vision to make schools safe and affirming for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression,' GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. 'We are proud to recognize Chaz Bono, Michele and Rob Reiner, Wells Fargo, Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts, and our 2011 Student Advocate of the Year for the significant contributions they have made toward creating a world where every child learns to respect and accept all people.'
The event is co-chaired by Linda Bell Blue (executive producer of Entertainment Tonight), Dave Karger (senior writer of Entertainment Weekly), Michael Lombardo (president of programming at HBO), David Phoenix (interior designer), and Chip Sullivan (head of publicity for DreamWorks Studios).
This year, GLSEN will offer five awards to recognize efforts to ensure schools are safe for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression:
Hero Award: Chaz Bono
Chaz Bono is an LGBT rights advocate, author, speaker, and the only child of famed entertainers Sonny and Cher. Chaz has contributed as a writer-at-large to The Advocate and in 1996 became the Human Rights Campaign's National Coming Out Day spokesperson. He also served as entertainment media director for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and has spoken at dozens of universities and LGBT events. An acclaimed author, Chaz has written three books including Transition, his groundbreaking and candid account of a 40-year struggle to match his gender identity with his physical body and his transformation from female to male. He recently shared his life and experiences in the three-time Emmy-nominated documentary Becoming Chaz. Chaz recently signed on to compete with 11 other celebrities in the 13th season of ABC's hit show Dancing with the Stars. He is very excited to compete athletically and continue to create awareness and impact change for the LGBT community. Chaz currently lives in Los Angeles with his fiancée, Jennifer Elia.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Michele and Rob Reiner
Michele and Rob Reiner are founding board members of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the sole sponsor of the federal court challenge of California's Proposition 8, Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Michele, an accomplished photographer, producer, and children's advocate, co-founded Parents' Action for Children (formerly the I Am Your Child Foundation) and produced the primetime ABC special 'I Am Your Child.' Rob, an actor and director, has been a leader in elevating the issue of pre-kindergarten education and other services for children. Rob, who presented a Respect Award to ABC's Modern Family at last year's event, won an Emmy Award for his role in All in the Family and has numerous film credits including When Harry Met Sally. In 2008, Rob and Michele teamed up with political strategist Chad Griffin to form the American Foundation for Equal Rights, working to protect and advance equal rights for Gay and Lesbian couples across the country.
Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion Award: Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo has a long history of supporting the LGBT community, serving LGBT customers, and creating an inclusive workplace environment for nearly 280,000 team members. The company scored a perfect 100% on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index for eight consecutive years and is currently ranked No. 2 on DiversityInc's Top 10 Companies for LGBT employees. Wells Fargo provided crucial support for the launch of GLSEN's Safe Space Campaign to place a GLSEN Safe Space Kit educator resource in every middle and high school in the country. Wells Fargo also has committed significant support for each year of the three-year campaign, which launched last year and will provide educators with tools to be visibly supportive allies to LGBT students.
Inspiration Award: Rick Welts
As president and chief executive officer of the Phoenix Suns, Rick Welts supervises all the team's business operations. In May 2011, Rick became the first professional sports executive to come out publicly, and has since stated that he wants to be a mentor to LGBT people who harbor doubts about a sports career, whether on the court or in the front office. Among many achievements over a 40-year career in the sports world, Rick is credited with the creation of the NBA All-Star Weekend concept in 1984, and was named 'Marketer of the Year' in 1998 by Brandweek magazine for his role in creating and launching the WNBA. Welts' Suns provided critical support to GLSEN's award-winning 'Think Before You Speak' Ad Council campaign. Suns players Grant Hill and Jared Dudley starred in a PSA designed to reduce teens' use of anti-LGBT language.
Student Advocate of the Year: TBD
After a nationwide search, GLSEN will present the 2011 Student Advocate of the Year. This award recognizes a student who has advanced LGBT equality in their school or community, working to ensure that all students are safe and free of bullying, name-calling, and harassment. This year's search will focus on the students nationwide participating in GLSEN's chapter-led Jump-Start Student Leadership Program and other local GLSEN student leadership initiatives.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs, and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.
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