A record-breaking Justice in Action event honors two lifelong LGBTQ advocates
On Friday, February 26, 2016, Mazzoni Center Legal Services hosted our 7th annual “Justice in Action” luncheon and award presentation at Loews Philadelphia Hotel. Each year this event brings together legal professionals, law students, and others to raise funds for and awareness about Mazzoni’s Legal Services program, which provides direct legal assistance for individuals facing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and is the only program offering free legal services tailored towards low-income LGBTQ Pennsylvanians.
This year we had the pleasure of honoring two remarkably accomplished individuals who have dedicated their lives to advocating for LGBT rights: Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart, Esq. and Philadelphia attorney and activist Michael P. Williams, Esq. And we were thrilled to raise a record-breaking $44,000, thanks to the exceptional generosity of our many sponsors, hosts, and others who attended and supported this year’s event.
Event co-chair Michael D. Soileau said: “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the success of this year’s fundraising efforts, knowing that this event helps to sustain the work of a critically important direct service program.”
Co-chair Jessica Meller, Esq. of Saul Ewing LLP added: “The opportunity to hear from Michael and Kevin, both of whom have been on the forefront of the LGBT legal rights and advocacy movements, was extremely meaningful as well.”
“Having the ability to provide free legal support is something we’ve been extremely passionate about,” Mazzoni CEO Nurit Shein told reporter Paige Cooperstein, who covered the event for the Philadelphia Gay News. “The fact that we’ve reached our fundraising goal means people agree with us that this is something that needs to happen.”
Williams received a standing ovation as he was called to the stage, after Shein introduced him by sharing some of his many accomplishments, including his service as a member of Philadelphia Mayor John Street’s LGBT Advisory Board; as President of OutFront!, a Philadelphia-based LGBT platform-based political advocacy organization; his work in 2002 drafting the gender identity legislation that was eventually added to Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance; and initiating work on the non-discrimination ordinance that was enacted in New Hope, PA, the same year.
In a written statement, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said of Williams: “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Michael for many years, and I can say there is no one more deserving. His remarkable and inspiring personal story has clearly informed Michael’s years of public service work and his fierce advocacy for some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens, including homeless and low-income citizens, members of the LGBT community, and others."
“I salute Michael for his many achievements, and for his tireless dedication to making the world a better, more just place for all of us,” Warren wrote.
Cathcart spoke eloquently about being at the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court issued its historic decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which created marriage equality nationwide. He also addressed the broad range of legal issues facing LGBT people and those affected by HIV/AIDS that his organization remains engaged.
He noted that Lambda Legal and others have had success recently arguing that existing laws already protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as an extension of protections from discrimination based on sex.
Justice in Action Committee Member Andrew A. Chirls, Esq., called Cathcart’s Justice in Action Award “well-deserved,” adding that: “On behalf of the Justice in Action Awards Luncheon Committee, I'm thrilled that we have the collective opportunity to acknowledge and recognize Kevin for his more than 25 years of leadership, legislative impact, and advocacy for multiple lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities."
For his part, Cathcart praised Mazzoni Center for becoming a “real and thriving civil-rights institution.”
Mazzoni Legal and Public Policy Director Thomas W. Ude, Jr. noted that he had received strong positive feedback from people who attended the pre-luncheon continuing legal education program, Developments in Transgender Rights: How They Fit with Poverty and Discrimination Law, which Ude moderated and was led by an expert panel that included: Deja Lynn Alvarez, Director of Divine Light LGBTQ Wellness Center; Arli Christian, Esq., State Policy Counsel with the National Center for Transgender Equality; M. Dru Levasseur, Esq., Lambda Legal’s National Transgender Rights Project Director; R. Barrett Marshall, Esq. Mazzoni Center Legal Services’ Supervising Attorney; and Benjamin L. Jerner, Esq., of Jerner & Palmer, P.C.
“We were fortunate to have a talented and highly engaging panel,” Ude said, “and many of our attendees told me that they found the content and the opportunity to learn from these presenters truly worthwhile. I thank our presenters and Andrew A. Chirls, Esq., who worked with me as the course planner.”
In addition to event co-chairs Soileau and Meller, this year’s Justice in Action event was coordinated with the help of committee members John Alchin, Jeffrey Boles, Andrew Chirls, David Huting, Sara Jacobson, Margaret Klaw, Hal Marryatt and Juli Miller-Robinson.
Many thanks to the following sponsors and hosts for making the 2016 Justice in Action event possible.
Advocate - $2,500
Athena Global Advisors
Gian-Grasso, Tomczak, & Hufe, P.C.
Saul Ewing, LLP
Amicus - $1,000
Ballard Spahr LLP
Berner, Klaw & Watson, LLP
Drucker & Scaccetti
Fox Rothschild, LLP
PNC Wealth Management
Sellers Dorsey Foundation
Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP
Patron - $2,5000
John R. Alchin and Hal Marryatt
Michael D. Soileau and Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Esq.
Guardian - $1,000
Andrew A. Chirls, Esq. and Jim Bulizzi
Juli and Walker Robinson
Jimmy J.. Ruiz, MD and Matthew Capucini
Nurit Shein and Sue Levi Elwell
Friend - $500
Helen Casale, Esq. and Bonnie Hoffman
Roland C. Collins
S. David Fineman, Esq.
David F. Huting, CFA
Marcus and Lisa Iannozzi
Sara Jacobson, Esq. and Mary Catherine Roper, Esq.
Michael LiPuma, Esq. and Alexandra Morigi
Donald Millinger, Esq. and Gary Clinton
R Perry Monastero and Estuardo Orozco
Anthony R. Rodriguez, MD and Michael P. Williams, Esq.
Evan Urbania and Matthew Ray
Klayton and Valentine Vigil-Fennell
Supporter - $250
Joseph E. Best, Esq.
Jeffrey Boles, Esq.
Hon. Ann M. Butchart and Marian Luongo, Esq.
Susan Jin Davis
Miriam Edelstein, Esq.
Katie Eyer, Esq. and Kevin Aptowicz
Ellen Fischer, Esq.
Ethan D. Fogel, Esq.
Kelly A. Harris
Harvey Hurdle and Kevin Yoder
Kate Kleba, Esq.
Mark Momjian, Esq.
Tiffany Palmer, Esq. and Leonore Carpenter, Esq.
Joseph A. Sullivan, Esq.
For more information about Mazzoni Center Legal Services, click here.