Georgia Equality to honor LGBTQ heroes, allies at gala dinner

Georgia Equality will salute a transgender elected official for spearheading an effort to pass sweeping LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances across metro Atlanta.

Doraville City Councilmember Stephe Koontz (photo) will receive the honor along with four other individuals and corporations at the LGBTQ advocacy group's 15th Annual Evening for Equality. The gala dinner takes place June 15 at the Loews Atlanta Hotel. 

“We're delighted to be celebrating each of our honorees at Evening for Equality this year,” Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said in a press release. “This year’s winners are all making a difference in the fight for LGBTQ equality in Georgia and I’m so happy we get to celebrate them and the work that they’re doing on June 15.”

Koontz, the first openly trans elected official in Georgia history, led the fight to pass a nondiscrimination policy in Doraville that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in private employment, housing and public accommodations. The city council passed it in November, making Doraville join Atlanta as one of two cities in Georgia with such protections.

Koontz and former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard worked together to use the Doraville policy as a model for other similar-sized cities in the metro area. Clarkston and Chamblee passed theirs in April. The Dunwoody City Council will vote on its nondiscrimination policy on June 10.

Koontz will receive the Allen Thornell Political Achievement Award at Evening for Equality. Other honorees include the Coca-Cola Company, Cox Enterprises, True Colors Theater artistic director Jamil Jude and trans activist Toni-Michelle Williams

Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson will be the keynote speaker at the June 15 event. Tomlinson is running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. The winner will face Sen. David Perdue in 2020. 

More about the honorees, via Georgia Equality:

The Coca-Cola Company & Cox Enterprises - 2019 Champion for Equality Award

As two of Georgia’s largest employers, both The Coca-Cola Company and Cox Enterprises have been unafraid to publically show their support for LGBTQ Georgians. In an environment where the voice of businesses carries a great deal of weight, having the support of these two companies is invaluable to Georgia’s LGBTQ community. Both of these companies have long supported the work of Georgia Equality and this year, The Coca-Cola Company and Cox Enterprises both signed on to a letter of support for the Equality Act which would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in federal law.

Doraville City Councilmember Stephe Koontz - 2019 Allen Thornell Political Advancement Award

Elected to the Doraville City Council in 2017 by a margin of six votes, Stephe Koontz is the only openly transgender elected official serving in any office in the Georgia.  Since her election, she has hit the ground running, working to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in the City of Doraville that addresses discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations for all residents, including LGBTQ people. And she hasn’t slowed down. More recently, Stephe has been working with surrounding cities to do the same thing! Both the Cities of Clarkston and Chamblee have already followed her lead and several other cities in the Metro-Atlanta area and around the state of Georgia are now exploring their own ordinances.

Jamil Jude of True Colors Theater - 2019 Phillip Rush Community Builder Award

As the Artistic Director of True Colors Theater, and the only black artistic director of a theater in Atlanta, Jamil spends each day fighting for full equality and inclusion for LGBTQ people, specifically LGBTQ folks of color through art. Directing such shows as Before It Hits Homes (the earliest play written about HIV and black communities), Skeleton Crew, and This Bitter Earth and more, Jamil is receiving this award for using his platform at True Colors Theater and in Atlanta more broadly to create a space for black queer theatre and uplifting the stories and experiences of Black LGBTQ communities and artists in Atlanta.

Toni-Michelle Williams - Cheryl-Courtney Evans Award for Trans Advocacy

Toni-Michelle facilitated her first trans* support group in 2013, and has spent the last six years growing her advocacy and leadership. Since then she has developed 2 leadership development programs focused on the personal and collective transformation of Black trans, formerly incarcerated and/or sex working people. Williams co-led the successful efforts to decriminalize cannabis in Atlanta. She also spearheaded efforts to authorize the creation of a design team for an Atlanta/Fulton County pre-arrest diversion initiative and in February 2018, Williams worked with a coalition that ended required cash bail for non-violent offenses in Atlanta. Williams continues to create spaces that cultivate joy and resilience for Black trans folks, and the Black LGBTQ community in general.