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Urvashi Vaid to Receive GLAD’s 2014 Spirit of Justice Award

GLAD will present the Spirit of Justice Award to activist icon Urvashi Vaid, a community organizer, writer and civil rights attorney who has been an inspirational leader in the LGBT and social justice movements for more than three decades.


Photo: Katja Heinemann

“Urvashi reminds us that our work is never done; that there are laurels, but not to be rested on; and that we need only to open our eyes to see so many who remain in need of the liberation we profess to seek.” – GLAD Interim Executive Director Gary Buseck

“Urvashi truly embodies what we most want to elevate with this award. She is someone whose body of work represents an absolute commitment to the fundamental goal of our movement: the recognition and enhancement of the dignity of every person,” said Gary Buseck, Interim Executive Director of GLAD. “Urvashi reminds us that our work is never done; that there are laurels, but not to be rested on; and that we need only to open our eyes to see so many who remain in need of the liberation we profess to seek.”

“I’m honored to receive this recognition from one of the most effective organizations in our movement.  GLAD has a special place in my life because it’s the first LGBT organization at which I worked, as a 21-year old law student.  From John Ward, David Lund, and Cindy Rizzo, to Mary Bonauto, Jennifer Levi, Ben Klein, and Gary Buseck, GLAD has a tradition of legal brilliance that I deeply respect,” said Vaid, who is currently Senior Fellow at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School.

Vaid started organizing on social justice and feminist issues as an undergraduate.  She worked actively in Boston’s LGBT community from 1979-1983, working at Gay Community News, co-founding the Boston Lesbian & Gay Political Alliance and serving as one of GLAD’s first staffers while a law student at Northeastern University School of Law.

As a staff attorney at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, Vaid initiated the organization’s work on HIV/AIDS in prisons.  She went on to become first the communications director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and then its executive director, and director of its Policy Institute Think Tank, where she co-founded the Creating Change Conference and launched the organization’s work on racial and economic justice issues.

For ten years, Vaid held leadership roles at global philanthropic institutions, serving as Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation and the Arcus Operating Foundation, and deputy director of the Governance and Civil Society Unit of the Ford Foundation.  She has served on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Gill Foundation.  Most recently, she co-founded and serves on the Board of LPAC, the country’s first lesbian political action committee.

Vaid is the author of Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class and The Assumptions of LGBT Politics and Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay & Lesbian Liberation.   She is co-editor with John D’Emilio and William Turner of Creating Change: Public Policy Sexuality and Civil Rights, and she writes and lectures extensively on the issues of social justice, civil and human rights and LGBT equality.

The Spirit of Justice Award is one of many that Vaid has received, including an Honorary Degree from City University of New York, Queens College of Law, and awards from SAGE, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY, the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association, American Foundation for AIDS Research, American Immigration Law Foundation, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Asian American Legal Defense Fund, the Paul Anderson Prize Foundation, and Lambda Legal.

Urvashi Vaid will accept the award at the 15th Annual Spirit of Justice Award Dinner at the Boston Marriott Copley Place on October 24, 2014.  Details about the event are available at www.glad.org/events.

Past Spirit of Justice honorees include Margaret J. Marshall, the former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court; Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his family, Reverend Irene Monroe, Bishop Gene Robinson, Beth Robinson, GLAD Founder John Ward, Terrence McNally, Mandy Carter, Reverend William Sinkford, Tim Gill, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Tony Kushner, Laurence Tribe, and GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto.

The Spirit of Justice Award Dinner is co-chaired by Joyce Kauffman and Ben Franklin.  The dinner’s lead sponsor is Reproductive Science Center of New England.