NEW ORLEANS— Long-time advocate Stewart Butler will receive the 38th Annual Ben Smith Award by the ACLU of Louisiana. This award honors people who have demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of civil liberties in Louisiana. It is named for the late Ben Smith, a founder of the ACLU of Louisiana and a civil rights lawyer who was arrested for his work to end segregation and for participating in mixed-race gatherings.
Mr. Butler, who entered politics while still a student at the University of Alaska in the late 1950's, has devoted much of his life to equality for all people of New Orleans, and especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities in New Orleans and around Louisiana. He began his civil rights work in New Orleans helping with voter registration drives run by James Singleton in the 1970's. In 1973, he and his soulmate, Alfred Doolittle, left the Upstairs Lounge after Alfred unexpectedly said he wanted to leave some 30 minutes before the fire that killed more than thirty persons, the most of any fire in the history of New Orleans. In 1980 he was a founding member of LAGPAC, an early advocacy group seeking equal rights for the gay community. Mr. Butler was the only individual to be a part of all three attempts to pass a New Orleans Gay Rights Ordinance in 1984, 1986, and 1991. He has served on the boards of the Lesbian and Gay Community Center, LAGPAC, Celebration New Orleans, PFLAG, and many other organizations dedicated to equal rights for all.
Mr. Butler, an Army Veteran, holds degrees in geological engineering and business administration and attended law school. He has received honors including the ACLU-LAGPAC Gittings-Hay Award for service in 1985; Louisiana Council for Equal Rights Award for outstanding achievement in politics in 1991; the Human Rights Campaign Outstanding Leadership and Service Award in 1993, and the 2004 Equality Louisiana's Community First Award.
A dinner honoring Mr. Butler will be held on March 22, 2014 at the New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center in New Orleans. The keynote speaker will be Melissa Fluornoy, PhD. Fluornoy is the chair of Louisiana Progress, a former state legislator from Shreveport and the founder of the Louisiana association of nonprofit organizations and the Louisiana budget project. In addition to being an advocate, activist and philanthropist, Melissa is currently the state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
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