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The 18th Annual GLAAD Media Awards

Equality In The Face of Inequity

For 18 years now, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has put together the GLAAD Media Awards to reward the mainstream media for its fair and accurate portrayals of the LGBT community, however scarce they may be. Though such depictions remain few and far between, there is no shortage of talent and passion in the field that deserve recognition and praise.

On March 26, GLAAD presented The Vito Russo Award to Tom Ford in New York at the kickoff to this year’s events for his efforts to eliminate homophobia. Last weekend in Los Angeles Jake Gyllenhaal presented Jennifer Aniston with the Vanguard Award to signify her work in promoting equal rights. The San Francisco GLAAD Media Awards, which take place on April 28th at the Westin St. Francis, will present the Davidson/Valentini Award to actor Robert Gant and the Pioneer Award to activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon for their contributions to the cause of inclusive representation.

The Davidson/Valentini Award honors openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals who have made significant differences in the campaign for equal rights as part of their careers. Past recipients include Sandra Bernhard, B.D. Wong, and Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, who among their other accomplishments developed "Queer As Folk" for an American audience.

This year’s honoree Robert Gant, who played Michael’s HIV-positive boyfriend on "Queer As Folk", spent four seasons on that seminal show after coming out publicly in 2002. In his depiction of Ben Bruckner, Gant presented not only one of the few positive portrayals of HIV-positive people in entertainment, but more importantly, with his on-air partner Michael, he showed for one of the first times on television the complexities of a mixed HIV-status relationship.

Few leading men in the entertainment industry have since been known to pair personal honesty and integrity so fittingly with their careers. Now with his own production company, Mythgarden Productions, Gant has transferred his on-screen success behind the camera, creating gay-themed films like the 2007 Sundance selected "Save Me". The Davidson/Valentini Award will honor Gant for continuing to highlight the LGBT community.

This year’s recipients of the Pioneer Award could not be more appropriate. As the fight for marriage equality continues, the work of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon has become ever more significant. The LGBT movement for civil rights owes a terrific amount to this couple as they have been fighting for equality since 1955, when they first formed the Daughters of Bilitis, America’s first major lesbian organization.

Since then, in addition to publishing numerous books on lesbian life like 1972’s Lesbian/Woman and 1973’s Lesbian Love And Liberation, Martin and Lyon have persisted with various organizations such as the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, the National Organization for Women, and the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.

As pioneers in every sense of the word, Martin and Lyon were the first same-sex couple to have their marriage recognized by the government in 2004 when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom decided to grant marriage equality. The Pioneer Award honors their commitment to community and to each other.

As with previous years, this year’s program promises to remind
us of why an awards show like itself remains integral to the promotion of equality in the entertainment industry. With the demise of once popular shows like NBC’s "Will & Grace" and Bravo’s "Queer Eye", it is increasingly important to reward those in the industry who continue to brave the fronts of inclusion and equality. While it may never be an easy task, exposure such as that guaranteed by the GLAAD Media Awards can at the least provide acknowledgment and encouragement.

The 18th Annual GLAAD Media Awards
on Saturday, April 28, 2007
at the Westin St. Francis
5pm – Midnight
For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.glaad.org