On March 20, 2011, the ACLU of Louisiana will give its 34th annual Ben Smith award to Larry Bagneris, Executive Director of the City of New Orleans' Human Relations Commission. This award is given annually to someone with a demonstrated commitment to the advancement of civil liberties in Louisiana and is named for the late Ben Smith, a founder of the ACLU of Louisiana and a civil rights lawyer.
Since he was 16 years old, Larry Bagneris has fought for equal rights for all. He picketed against segregation in New Orleans and participated in sit-ins that led to desegregation of public facilities. In 1967 he was the first black person elected as Vice-chair of the Young Democrats of New Orleans. As an openly gay man, Larry has advocated for equal rights for the LGBT community in addition to rights for racial minorities. In recognition of his leadership for equal rights, Larry was appointed the head of New Orleans' Human Relations Commission in May 2001 and is responsible for receiving and mediating complaints of discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment. In December of 2002 Larry was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Conference for Gay and Lesbian Elected Officials.
"Larry Bagneris embodies the spirit of equality and justice," said ACLU Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman. "He has dedicated his life to ensuring equal rights for all. Few people have worked so hard, so consistently, to ensure that everyone is treated equally. It's an honor to present Larry with our Ben Smith Award."
The dinner honoring Larry Bagneris will be held on March 20, 2010 at Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans. Information and tickets are available here.