Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told members of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Wednesday night that she was honored and moved to have been chosen by the club to receive its annual Wanda Alston Democratic Service Award.
Wasserman Schultz was one of four award recipients honored at the Stein Club’s 39th Annual Leadership Awards Reception in Washington. The Alston Award is named after the late lesbian activist and feminist leader Wanda Alston who became known as a tenacious champion for LGBT and women’s rights.
“I’m overcome with your recognition,” she told a gathering of about 75 Stein Club members and supporters at the Dirty Martini restaurant and bar on Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
“Often times accomplishing our goals is through the path of more resistance, and Wanda Alston represented the epitome of that,” said Wasserman Schultz. She noted that Alston accomplished as much as she had because she “didn’t take no for an answer, didn’t accept the status quo.”
With the 2016 presidential and congressional elections fast approaching, Wasserman Schultz urged the Stein Club and the LGBT community it represents not to be complacent following what she called historic advances in LGBT equality during the more than seven years of the administration of President Obama.
“I feel particularly close to you and passionate about the LGBT community and LGBT equality. I represent one of the largest LGBT communities in the country,” she said, referring to the South Florida district she represents in her role as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. “So I’ve been so proud to fight by your side and I look forward to representing you so incredibly well,” she said.
But she said that following the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country as a capstone to the other LGBT rights advances, including the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ she has a message of caution.
“And that is I really hope that everybody in this room doesn’t sort of brush your hands off and ride off into the sunset with the mission accomplished, because we still have work to do.”
The other award recipients at the event included Robert Raben, founder and president of the Raben Group, a political consulting and public policy firm in Washington, who received the club’s Frank Kameny Award; and Sara Fatell, who identifies as a queer activist and is founder and owner of a D.C.-based bakery and catering business, who received the club’s President’s Award.
The Stein Club named the Fairfax School Board as the recipient of its Richard Rausch Equality Award for its longstanding support for LGBT rights and its recent approval of a non-discrimination policy protecting transgender students and school employees and a Family Life Education curriculum that calls for teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in a non-judgmental way. Pat Hynes, chair of the Fairfax School Board, accepted the award on behalf of the board.
Stein Club President Earl Fowlkes is a member of the DNC and serves as chair of the DNC’s LGBT Caucus. He called Wasserman Schultz a champion of LGBT rights in her roles as DNC chair and a member of Congress.
“We had a wonderful array of awardees and especially giving Debbie Wasserman Schultz the Wanda Alston Award – since I knew Wanda – was personally very gratifying,” Fowlkes said, “because she embodies that kind of feisty spirit of fighting for her principles.”
Among those attending the event was D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who told the gathering he’s a strong supporter of the Stein Club’s goals of advancing LGBT equality.