June 01, 2017 Summer 2017

The Stonewall Award...A Short Story

In the fall of 2006, I was contacted by Mark Agrast to provide him names of individuals that would be forwarded to the ABA president elect for appointment to the new ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity commencing after the annual meeting the summer of 2007.  At the time, I was serving on the ABA Commission on Women in the profession, having been appointed by Karen J. Mathis, who was the first lesbian ABA president. This will come into play later in this story.

When the SOGI Commission was established, Pamela J. Roberts, who was Chair of the Commission on Women in the Profession, asked me to serve as liaison to SOGI. The intersection of my two passions, women’s and lgbt issues in the profession made accepting the position a ‘no brainer.’ I gladly put forth my efforts on both fronts. At the annual meeting in 2007, while sitting at the Margaret Brent Award luncheon, it occurred to me that SOGI should have an award uniquely aimed at individuals whose efforts had advanced lgbt acceptance through leadership, litigation, and activism. SOGI, as an organization, was in its infancy, struggling to find its way in the ABA organization. As time passed, I learned a lot about the politics of the ABA and how things get accomplished. The idea of a SOGI award became refined and focused. In the spring of 2009, I was ap- pointed to serve on SOGI at the con- clusion of my three years of service on the CWP in August. In July 2009, the Chair of SOGI, Courtney Joslin, called me. We spoke about my in terests and ideas I had for SOGI, like standing committees and, of course, my idea of a SOGI award. At the annual meeting that summer, I spoke on these two topics. Of the two, the structure issue of standing committees was the far easier to enact. On the topic of a SOGI award there was resistance, as many felt the ABA had too many awards. Nevertheless, over several commission meetings I persisted in formulating an acceptable overview of an award… though the name I originally used was the Mathis Award (after asking Karen about use of her name). Finally, a committee was established and serious consideration of establishing a SOGI award lead to approaching the Board of Governors with what is and was to be known as the ABA Stonewall Award. The criteria are now well known. The original awards were large glass-art vases of rainbow colors.

Each year since, I watch as awardees are announced, and, like seeing my children grow, I am proud of each of them and what I did in establishing the Stonewall Award to recognize their accomplishments.

 

ALYSON DODI MEISELMAN

Past SOGI Commissioner