A banquet room full of some 200 LGBT attorneys, gay-friendly judges and judicial candidates and not one lawyer joke was uttered? That was the scene Thursday for the 16th Annual Stonewall Bar Association Awards Dinner.
The upscale event unfolded in the Greystone building inside Piedmont Park and was a little more buttoned-up than the last two big gay events there – Joining Hearts in July and Backpack in the Park in August.
But the event did score some headlines: Mayor Kasim Reed used his keynote address to announce the creation of a blue ribbon commission of LGBT attorneys to reach a “just and right” end to the federal lawsuit facing the city and its police department over the botched raid of the Eagle.
Before that announcement, Reed reminisced with the group about his pre-election days as an attorney with billable hours. He also credited the group for its work on LGBT issues.
“We need to pause and pat each other on the back more. It is a tough economy, it is tough to find a job. But you are committed to this organization and I just you want to acknowledge yourselves for the work you do,” he added.
The spotlight for the evening, though, was shared with state Rep. Simone Bell (video; top photo right). Stonewall honored her with its Conspicuous Service to the Stonewall Community Award.
“The work that I am doing serves as an inspiration to a lot of people across this country and it really makes me think about the idea that it does get better,” said Bell, who is the nation’s first openly lesbian African American elected to a state legislature.
“I can say for myself that my life has gotten better. I also know that unless we as adults stand up for what is right, stand up for full equality, that unfortunately for some people, it will not get better,” she added.
The group also presented its Outstanding Service to the Stonewall Community Award to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta for its hosting of the first-ever conference detailing the new federal hate crime act signed into law in October 2009. More than 300 people attended the event in May, including scores of law enforcement personnel from across the state and officials with gay and non-gay advocacy groups.
The Stonewall dinner also attracted two-dozen judges, including Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the Georgia Supreme Court. Hunstein (bottom photo) gave Bell the oath of office during a ceremony at the State Capitol in December.
Other judges at the dinner included:
Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams, Fulton County Superior Court
Judge Anne Barnes, Presiding Judge Georgia Court of Appeals
Judge Tangela M. Barrie, DeKalb County Superior Court
Judge Jerry Baxter, Fulton County Superior Court
Judge T. Jackson Bedford, Jr., Fulton County Superior Court
Judge Sherry Boston, DeKalb County Magistrate Court
Judge La Tisha G. Dear, DeKalb County Recorder’s Court
Judge Alford J. Dempsey, Jr., Fulton County Superior Court
Judge Janis Gordon, DeKalb County State Court
Judge Michael D. Johnson, Fulton County Superior Court
Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua, Fulton County Superior Court
Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane, Fulton County Superior Court
Judge Dax E. Lopez, DeKalb County State Court
Judge Henry M. Newkirk, Fulton County Superior Court
U.S. Administrative Law Judge Robin Palenske, Social Security Administration
Judge Johnny Panos, DeKalb County State Court
Judge Patsy Y. Porter, Fulton County State Court
Judge Wayne M. Purdom, DeKalb County State Court
Judge Jeryl Debra Rosh, DeKalb County Probate Court
Judge Wendy L. Shoob, Fulton County Superior Court
Judge Melvin K. Westmoreland, Fulton County Superior Court
Judge Alvin T. Wong, DeKalb County State Court
Chief Judge Cynthia D. Wright, Fulton County Superior Court