Governor, Entertainer Honored with Pride Festival Awards

Each year members of Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community honor individuals who have exhibited exemplary dedication and service on their behalf with two prestigious awards.

The Utah Pride Center is pleased to announce Gov. Jon Huntsman will be the recipient of the Pete Suazo Political Action Award and Walter Larabee will receive the esteemed Dr. Kristen Ries Community Service Award for 2009.

The Pete Suazo Political Action Award was established in 2002 in honor of the late Senator Pete Suazo’s tireless attempts to pass hate crimes legislation in Utah, paired with his continual efforts to remind the Utah State Legislature of the great diversity found in our state. This award is presented to an elected Utah official who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community of Utah through legislation, policy or declaration.

Representatives from various gay and transgender-run organizations including the Utah chapters of the Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, the Human Rights Campaign, and  the Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah chose Gov. Huntsman for his commitment to equal rights, as well as for openly supporting civil unions for same-sex couples in Utah. Throughout his tenure, he has encouraged legislators and policy makers to take the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community’s needs into consideration when developing policy and/or legislation. He has also stepped out to lend his support to the “Common Ground” initiatives introduced by Equality Utah during the 2009 Legislative Session.

The Dr. Kristen Ries Community Service Award was established in 1987 and was first presented to Dr. Kristen Ries for her humanitarian efforts in dealing with the AIDS crisis. The award is forever named in her honor. This award recognizes outstanding service to the greater gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community in Utah, and is given to individual(s) who are dedicated to continuing that legacy of service. Those who receive this award are role models for Utah’s gay and transgender community, and like Dr. Kristen Ries “exemplify everything that the award has stood for: compassion, leadership and courage.”

Walter Larabee, chosen by a body of former Dr. Kristen Ries Community Service Award recipients, has worked tirelessly as a performer providing quality music, dance, storytelling and comedy to Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer Utahns.

“Walter has demonstrated how performing in drag is a positive outlet that helps men and women bridge the gap between the societal constraints of reality and the limitless potential that exists in the world of imagination and fantasy,” said Valerie Larabee, Executive Director of the Utah Pride Center.

The awards will be presented at the Utah Pride Festival’s Grand Marshal Reception, which will honor activist Cleve Jones as the Festival’s 2009 Grand Marshal. The reception begins at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, June 5 at Trofi in the Hilton Salt Lake City Center, 255 S West Temple. Recipients will also be honored on Saturday, June 6 at the Utah Pride Festival’s opening ceremony and again Sunday, June 7 at the 2009 Utah Pride Parade.

Tickets to all Utah Pride Festival events can be purchased online at utahpridefestival.org.

Michael N. Westley is the Utah Pride Center’s Media and Special Events Coordinator. 

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