Each year during the Utah Pride Festival, three awards are presented to Utahns who have served and bettered Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and ally community. These awardees will be honored, along with 2015 Grand Marshal Janet Mock, at the Grand Marshal Reception on Friday, June 5, 2015. The event will be held on the Utah Pride Festival grounds on Washington Square in downtown Salt Lake City. Awardees will also be honored during the Utah Pride Parade on Sunday, June 7.
Kristen Ries Community Service Award: Courtney Moser, aka Petunia Pap Smear
Courtney Moser, and his drag personae “Petunia Pap Smear,” has worked tirelessly to better the lives of the LGBTQ community for decades. As a volunteer community activist and community builder, thousands of people in Cache Valley were served by his dedication and love for community. His involvement included local events, film festivals, pride celebrations, interfaith gatherings and discussions, panels at Utah State University to inform the university community about being in the LGBTQ community, its challenges and its success. Courtney was an active and vital member of Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church in Salt Lake City traveling the 90 miles for weekly Sunday services as well as Wednesday and Thursday gatherings. He, with his husband Pastor Kelly Byrnes, established and worked hard for the success of Bridgerland MCC in Logan. As part of Bridgerland, he also served on the hospitality committee as well as music for worship.
Courtney is the head matron of the Matrons of Mayhem and, as Petunia, he and the rest of the Matrons have raised tens of thousands of dollars for various causes within and without the LGBT community. He is a monthly columnist for QSaltLake, a published author and is actively involved with the First Baptist Church, People With AIDS Coalition of Utah, the Salt Lake Men’s Choir, and much more.
His quiet dedication and service to the community exemplifies why the Dr. Kristen Ries Community Service award was established in 1987. This award was first presented to Dr. Kristen Ries for her humanitarian efforts in dealing with the AIDS crisis, and forever named in her honor. This award recognizes outstanding service to the greater Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community in Utah and is given to individuals who are dedicated to continuing that legacy of service. The recipient is chosen by past awardees.
Pete Suazo Political Action Award: Sen. Jim Dabakis
Senator James “Jim” Dabakis is a Democratic member of the Utah State Senate representing District 2, which covers the east side of Salt Lake City. He was first appointed to the Senate in December 2012, when he was selected by party delegates to replace Ben McAdams, who resigned to assume the office of Salt Lake County Mayor. He was the first openly gay elected chair of the Utah Democratic Party, serving in that role from July 2011 to April 2014. He played an integral role in the passage of SB296 that aims to protect people in the LGBT community from employment and housing discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, while still protecting religious rights. He also has his own caucus, the Dabakis Kakis, and holds weekly meetings to keep people updated during the legislative session. His unique perspective and sense of humor are highlighted in his “The Dabakis Factor” e-newsletters.
Dabakis is a co-founder of both the Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah, and continues to work closely with them to extend LGBTQ rights and direct services to community members. He has served as a talk-radio and TV host in Salt Lake City, taught business at a Russian university, provided micro-loans to a variety of emerging Russian entrepreneurs and started an art business. He and his husband Stephen Justesen were legally wed by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office on December 20, 2013, just hours after a federal judge ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.
The Pete Suazo Political Action Award was established in 2001 in honor of Senator Suazo’s tireless attempts to pass Hate Crimes legislation in Utah. This award is presented annually to an elected official who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to equal rights for the LGBTQ community of Utah through legislation, policy or declaration. A committee including leaders of Equality Utah, Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, Human Rights Campaign and the Utah Pride Center chooses the recipient.
Utah Hero Award: Paul Burke
Paul Burke is an exemplary member of our community and the legal community at large. His tenacity, zeal, and compassion have made him a champion of the underserved and most disadvantaged in our community. Paul received the Utah Bar’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year award in 2012 in recognition of his representation of an underage lesbian in southern Utah who was being abused by her custodians. Over the course of many months, Paul waged a legal battle against the girl’s parents, the anti-gay “therapists” they had hired to turn their daughter straight, and the guardian ad litem who had inexplicably sided with the parents and custodians. He helped rescue her from a terrible situation and protected her legal rights during a lengthy child welfare process.
Paul also helped Michael Ferguson and Seth Anderson become the first Utah same-sex couple to marry, and then officiated the first lesbian wedding in the state of Utah on December 20, 2013. In his capacity as the chairman of the rules committee for the U.S. Soccer Federation, he helped shepherd through a nondiscrimination policy that protects more than 3 million soccer players from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 2013, Paul led a team of attorneys, including former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman, in ﬁling an amicus brief on behalf of the Pride Center in Windsor. Paul then traveled to Washington DC to attend arguments before the United States Supreme Court, where he gained national media attention for the Utah Pride Center’s efforts. Since then, Paul has authored numerous opinion articles in the Salt Lake Tribune advocating marriage equality and equal rights for LGBT Utahns. Through his unwavering dedication and service to our community, he has exhibited exceptional service, support and dedication to the LGBTQ community in Utah – characteristics of a Utah Hero.
Tickets for the Grand Marshal Reception are $50 and can be purchased from the Utah Pride Festival website. For more information about the Utah Pride Festival, visit utahpridefestival.org.