ACLU celebrates LGBT legal victories

ACLU celebrates LGBT legal victories

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania will honor exemplary libertarians and volunteers throughout the state, including a number of LGBT community members, at its annual Bill of Rights Dinner next week.

The dress-as-you’re-most-comfortable event will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 8 at the National Museum of American Jewish History, Fifth and Market streets.

Among the winners of the 2014 Civil Libertarian Award are the clients in the Whitewood v. Wolf case, which in effect brought marriage equality to Pennsylvania, and Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, the firm with which ACLU-PA worked on  the case. Other winners are the Neshaminy High School newspaper editors and Arnold & Porter, LLP.

This year’s theme is “transforming lives.” Bruce Makous, development director for ACLU-PA, said the event takes on the character of the achievements and accomplishments of the people it is recognizing.

“There have been so many successes this year. It’s unbelievable. Some large cases at the U.S. Supreme Court level, and others at the highest court in the state,” Makous said. “Whitewood v. Wolf was a huge accomplishment for us. When we say transforming lives, we think we have helped so many same-sex couples in Pennsylvania or those who have desired to be married. And this dinner celebrates these advancements in the protection of our civil liberties.”

An awards committee comprised of previous winners from over the past five years chose the Civil Libertarian award winners.

ACLU will also recognize outstanding volunteers Edward Posner and Lawrence Felzer, who is openly gay.

Makous said both are being recognized for their “generous contributions of time and energy to the ALCU. Posner has been a cooperating attorney for decades and has always given us much of his free time to us. Felzer has been a strong supporter for years, and has been very active in making the LGBT community aware of our accomplishments. We have also received many contributions and grants through his personal efforts.”

Master of ceremonies Michael Coard, radio host and community activist, will be joined by guest Ben Wizner, attorney for Edward Snowden and director of the ACLU speech, privacy and technology project.

Makous sees privacy as a huge issue for Pennsylvanians and all Americans.

“We wanted to address the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, and the Snowden issue epitomizes that concern. So we brought in Wizner,” Makous said. “Pennsylvania itself has its own problems with state law. We don’t have strong protection for privacy. There’s a bill being considered called the prescription surveillance bill — SB 1180 — which we feel severely compromises patient privacy.”

The dinner will include a silent auction, with items such as leisure packages, sculptures by Helen Beling, dinner with ACLU-PA executive director Reggie Shuford and more.

For more information, call 215-592-1513 ext. 124.

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