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Simon Aronoff, 415-901-0111
Electronic photos and biographical information of honorees available on request
Annual Courage Awards Honors Young
Heroes Fighting Institutionalized Homophobia in School
Colin Higgins Foundation Courage Award Winners Battle Discrimination and
Teach Valuable Lessons in Civil Rights and Respect for Diversity
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—A Jacksonville, Arkansas boy who stood
up to his school district for forcing him to read Bible passages as punishment
for speaking about his homosexuality, and an honors student who fought and won
a heated battle with her college paper for publishing homophobic and racist
cartoons are this year’s Colin Higgins Foundation Courage Award winners. The Courage Awards are given each year to
young activists fighting for queer rights in underrepresented populations
within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights movement. Honorees demonstrate courage in the face of discrimination, intolerance and bigotry
based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
"The LGBT civil rights
movement has taken a tremendous step forward this year with our Supreme Court
victory in Lawrence v. Texas, but the
experiences of the 2003 Courage Award winners prove that individuals across the
country continue to face entrenched homophobia—even in our schools," said Tod
Hill, Director of Philanthropic Services at Tides and spokesperson
for the Colin Higgins Foundation. "The
Colin Higgins Foundation is proud to honor Thomas McLaughlin and Vianey Ramirez
for teaching their schools a lesson in equality."
The winners of
the fourth annual Colin Higgins Courage Awards are:
Thomas McLaughlin—When administrators at Jacksonville
Junior High outed this eighth grader to his parents without his consent, and
forced him to read passages from the Bible as "punishment" for speaking about
his homosexuality, McLaughlin and the Arkansas ACLU took the Pulaski County
Special School District to court. The
14-year-old was thrust into the national media spotlight. In July 2003, McLaughlin won his case when
the court ordered school administrators to apologize for violating his First
Vianey Ramirez—When the student newspaper at University
California at Riverside started running homophobic and racist comic strips,
this former cheerleading captain and honors student from Watts, California, did
not find it amusing. Ramirez, an out
Latina lesbian, organized diverse student groups opposed to the derogatory
caricatures. Ramirez and the coalition
empowered minority students and allies to demand better from their newspaper,
ultimately stopping the offensive depictions of minority communities.
Colin Higgins Courage Award recognizes ordinary but remarkable individuals who
have endured overwhelming hostility and hate, yet have handled themselves with
the dignity and pride as they educate and enlighten others about the lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender experience.
For the first time this year, in addition to a $5,000 grant, honorees will receive a scholarship to attend the 2003 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) Creating Change Conference in Miami Beach, FL, this November.
Colin Higgins, acclaimed screenwriter, director and producer of films such as Harold and Maude and Nine to Five, established The Colin Higgins Foundation in 1986. In addition to the Courage Awards, the Foundation also funds film scholarships and has supported over 390 LGBTIQ organizations, ranging from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender outreach and AIDS prevention programs in such underserved locations as Fayetteville, AK and Biloxi, MS.
The Colin Higgins Foundation is administered by Tides. Tides partners with donors and institutions by offering donor advised funds, philanthropic advice and management services for progressive social change philanthropy. Based in San Francisco, Tides has awarded more than $350 million in grants to community-based organizations and progressive nonprofits.
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