Equality Forum honors Buttigiegs for LGBT History Month

Chasten and Pete Buttigieg speak virtually after they received the Equality Forum International Role Model Award. (Screen capture via Equality Forum)

LGBTQ leaders and allies joined the Equality Forum in Philadelphia Oct. 3 to launch LGBT History Month with an award ceremony honoring Pete and Chasten Buttigieg and New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.

The Equality Forum, a national LGBTQ civil rights organization, granted the Buttigiegs the International Role Model Award, which is a long-standing recognition of activists and allies who have advanced LGBTQ civil rights.

Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary and first openly LGBTQ person to serve in the Cabinet, previously served as the first openly gay mayor of his hometown of South Bend, Indiana. Chasten Buttigieg is a teacher, LGBTQ rights advocate and author of the best-selling memoir “I Have Something to Tell You,” which is about growing up gay in the Midwest and his life with his husband.

The pair became parents to two newborns in September.

“When I began my career in public life, I wasn’t sure whether it was even possible to be out and to serve openly at the same time,” said Pete Buttigieg, who joined the event virtually with Chasten. “But my service as mayor, my candidacy for office and my role in public life has shown that now you can be out and serve your country. There’s a long way to go, but the work of groups like the Equality Forum and the history makers who came before I, made this possible.”

Previous winners of the award include Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, California Gov. Gavin Newson and activist Judy Shepard.

Bruni received the Frank Kameny Award, which is named after the prominent leader of the LGBTQ rights movement. Kameny led efforts to overturn the Eisenhower administration’s Executive Order 10450, which prohibited the employment of LGBTQ people by the federal government.

The first openly gay columnist for the Times, Bruni is a Pulitzer Prize nominee who joined the paper in 1995. He later served as a White House correspondent covering George W. Bush.

Bruni was named an op-ed writer in 2011, and recently left his post in 2021 to work as the endowed chair in journalism at Duke University. Bruni continues to write for the Times and contributes to CNN.

In his virtual acceptance speech, Bruni thanked the late Kameny and other trailblazers for fighting for LGBTQ rights.

“You’re all honoring me for the writing I’ve done that argues for our dignity, that illuminates our humanity—or at least that tries to do those things,” Bruni said. “But unlike Frank Kameny, unlike so many of his gay and lesbian contemporaries, unlike so many of you—I didn’t have to be courageous. I didn’t have to be visionary. Others covered that ground before, and for me.”

Equality Forum also joined the African American Museum in Philadelphia on Sunday in establishing the Alain Locke Historic Marker in front of the museum. A gay man from Philadelphia, Locke is remembered as the “Father of the Harlem Renaissance.”

“African American, women’s and LGBTQ history were invisible. LGBT History Month and the historic markers bring to public attention the LGBTQ community’s important national and international contributions,” said Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin in an emailed statement to the Washington Blade.

This is the 10th government-approved, nationally significant LGBTQ historic marker overseen and underwritten by Equality Forum, Lazin said. Locke was the first African American Rhodes Scholar, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University and became the chair of Howard University’s Philosophy Department.

“As the leader of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s, Alain Locke for the first time brought to national attention the diversity and vibrancy of the music, visual arts and literature of African American culture. Those who he mentored and promoted became legendary,” Lazin wrote.

Each day in October, the Equality Forum will honor a different LGBTQ “icon.” The 2021 icons include Bruni, members of Congress, entertainers, senior White House staffers, Mary Trump, Chopin and Myanmar’s Miss Universe. The Equality Forum will feature a video, biography, downloadable images and other resources for each Icon.

LGBT History Month, an Equality Forum project, has archived 496 icons with resources since it began 16 years ago. It is the largest online educational resource of its type worldwide, Lazin said. In 2019, Lou Chibbaro Jr., the Blade’s senior news reporter, was honored as an icon.

“We present the icons alphabetically. Oct. 1 was Susan B. Anthony,” Lazin wrote. “Few LGBTQ Americans know that the nation’s leading suffragette was a lesbian. Like Susan B. Anthony, LGBT History Month provides visibility for LGBTQ icons that have made monumental contributions.”

To learn more about the 2021 icons, visit LGBTHistoryMonth.com.

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