State Equality Dinner award winners announced

By BTL Staff


On Oct. 22, Equality Michigan will present the highly anticipated 2011 State Equality Dinner at The Henry in Dearborn. The gala evening is Equality Michigan's signature fundraiser. In addition to a VIP reception with live entertainment, the evening's festivities will feature a silent auction, formal dinner, presentation of the Catalyst Awards and an afterglow celebration. The following awardees will be honored for their outstanding contributions to the gay and transgender equality movement.

Alexa Van Vliet, president of the Oakland University Gay Straight Alliance, wins the Henry Messer Youth Activist Award. Van Vliet is an Oakland University senior majoring in psychology with minors in Spanish and public administration. She is leading student efforts to oppose anti-gay policy initiatives in Lansing while building pro-equality coalitions on campus. She has been trained by the Center for Progressive Leadership, a national training institute that develops leaders to advance progressive political change.

Van Vliet says her efforts are so important because there are people in every community who identify as gay and transgender. "There are Republicans who are gay, every ethnic group, every religion, we're everywhere," she said. "I always think back to Martin Luther King where he says an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. I think that really does apply to the LGBT community."

Michigan State Sen. Glenn Anderson earns the James K. Dressel Political Courage Award. Sen. Anderson was elected to the Michigan State Senate in November 2006 to represent the people of the 6th Senate district, which includes the communities of Garden City, Livonia, Redford Township, and Westland. Anderson serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the four related subcommittees of Economic Development, Transportation, Higher Education and General Government. In addition, Senator Anderson serves as Assistant Democratic Floor Leader. Prior to his election to the Senate, Anderson represented Michigan's 18th District in the Michigan House of Representatives for six years. Before beginning his tenure in the legislature, Anderson served as city councilman for Westland for nine years.

Throughout his tenure in public service, Sen. Anderson has been committed to fiscally responsible government, ensuring the continuation of vital services while maintaining a balanced budget. His legislative priorities include consumer protection, election reform, protecting our children, quality healthcare, and insurance accountability and affordability.

The Rev. Ed Rowe, pastor at Central United Methodist Church, earns the Ally in Faith Award. Rowe was appointed senior pastor to downtown Detroit's Central United Methodist Church in 1994. This ministry includes the NOAH project, which offers social services, health care and 29,000 bag lunches to the homeless each year, a Value Shop providing clothing for low-income Detroiters, the Peace for Youth project to teach non-violence to public school students, and the Swords Into Plowshares Peace Gallery, an arts gallery dedicated to peace. It supports partner organizations such as Welfare Rights, which advocates for the poor and Safe Journeys, which works with domestic violence victims. Rowe has been part of the movement to defeat Proposition E, which would have continued the state takeover of the Detroit School Board. He was a leader in supporting the Detroit News and Free Press strikers and has been part of delegations to Iraq and Palestine to promote peace. He continues to be a leader in the peace and justice movements both locally and globally.

Rowe has two children, Krista and Ryan. He is married to Nida Donar, an outstanding activist in the community.

Cleve Jones, founder of the NAMES Project, earns the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Influential gay activist Cleve Jones will accept Equality Michigan's Catalyst Award for Lifetime Achievement. Jones created the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt that has become, at 54 tons, the world's largest piece of community folk art as of 2009. In 1983 he co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which has grown into one of the largest and most influential AIDS advocacy organizations in the country.

Tickets are on sale now at Standard tickets are $150, VIP tickets are $250 and afterglow only tickets are $50. The dinner takes place Saturday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. at The Henry, 300 Town Center Drive, Dearborn, MI, 48126.

Equality Michigan (formerly the Triangle Foundation and Michigan Equality) works to achieve full equality and respect for all people in the state of Michigan regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. For more information, visit

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