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Simon Aronoff, 415-901-0111
Electronic photos and biographical information on winners available
COURAGE RECOGNIZED IN MEMORY OF HAROLD AND MAUDE CREATOR
The Colin Higgins Foundation Announces First-Annual Courage Award Winners
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Harold and Maude, Foul Play, Nine to Five and
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas each celebrated integrity and individuality while
challenging convention and bigotry. The Colin Higgins Foundation, established in 1986
by the acclaimed Hollywood writer/director of these films, annually honors four
individuals with Courage Awards for bravery in the face of discrimination, intolerance
and bigotry based on sexual orientation. The four winners this year, who will each
receive $10,000 from the Colin Higgins Foundation, are:
Greg Congdon – Greg learned the hard way that homosexuality is still not acceptable in
the small town of Troy, PA. A high school jock on the football and wrestling teams,
Greg’s struggle with his sexual orientation eventually led to a suicide attempt. While still
in the hospital, word leaked out that Greg was gay. When he returned to school, he was
ostracized, threatened and banished from sports. This hostility led to another suicide
attempt and ultimately forced Greg to withdraw from school, making him settle for a
GED through home study. But Greg has come out of the ruckus a stronger person.
Today, he gives guidance to hundreds of other questioning teens in small towns across
the country through the Internet.
Steven Cozza – At 15, in Petaluma, CA, Steven Cozza is on a serious mission to end the
policy of excluding gays from the Boy Scouts after the firing of a Scout Master. In the
past three years, Steven has solicited over 14,000 signatures on his petition to end the
ban, recently launching his campaign online at www.scoutingforall.org. This straight
ally’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Boy Scouts recently formed a “Committee of
Homosexuality” and has promised to take a closer look at the issue.
James Merrick – Just two years ago, James Merrick was named “teacher of the year” at
the Rio Bravo-Greeley Union School in Bakersfield, CA. But that was before he
challenged the open homophobia of a Kern County Human Rights Commissioner in the
press. His support of gay rights ultimately forced him out of the closet, causing parents
to demand that their children be pulled from his class. With the help of the California
Teachers’ Association, he fought the discrimination in court, ultimately gaining
mandatory diversity training for the school and an apology. Now retired, James spends
his time helping to build a network of gay and lesbian activist groups in Bakersfield.
Dana Rivers – Few teachers earn the respect and admiration that Dana Rivers garnered
at Center High School near Sacramento, CA. But when the award-winning teacher
announced plans for a sex change operation and name change to Dana Rivers, nine years
of dedication were tossed aside to appease a very small but vocal group of parents. Even
though there was very strong support from the student body, Dana was fired. Not one to
wallow in self-pity, she has made her struggle public and is now a champion for
"The recipients of these first Colin Higgins Courage Awards have each bravely stood up
to hostility and intolerance. By honoring their honesty and courage, the Colin Higgins
Foundation hopes their example will help eliminate the intolerance that gays, lesbians,
bisexuals and transgender persons face daily in our society," said Gary Schwartz,
spokesperson for the Collin Higgins Foundation and senior program officer of the Tides.
A part of the Tides network of organizations committed to social change, the
Colin Higgins Foundation is devoted to a wide variety of causes, particularly programs
confronting the HIV crisis in non-urban areas and fostering gay and lesbian
empowerment. The Colin Higgins Courage Awards were established by the foundation
in honor of the beloved filmmaker.
The Colin Higgins Foundation has supported over 390 organizations, ranging from the
American Film Institute and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to the
HIV Law Project and National Center for Lesbian Rights. The foundation was the first
organization to support the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN),
which now boast over 85 chapters in 35 states working to end discrimination based on
sexual orientation in educational institutions. The foundation is part of the Tides network, a family of organizations linked by a commitment to social change,
innovation, and responsible stewardship of resources.
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