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Valuing Our Families - Awards Archive
 Valuing Our Families

Below is an archive of past Valuing Our Families award winners.
Visit the
Community Outreach page for more info on the annual Valuing Our Families Conference.
For additional photos visit our Flickr page, and for videos visit our YouTube channel.



State Award: Martin Gill

Martin Gill has fostered 14 special-needs children over the past 8 years. Two young brothers were placed in his home on December of 2004. Over a year later, when the Department of Children and Families placed them up for adoption, Martin applied to adopt them. Represented by the ACLU, Martin Gill brought this
adoption case before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman. In November of 2008 Lederman ruled the
ban unconstitutional. In September of 2010 the Third District Court of Appeal unanimously upheld her
decision allowing Gill to adopt the two boys who have been in his care for over six years. They are now 6 and 10 years of age.

Local Award: Mark and Melanie Frey

Mark and Melanie are role models for all parents of LGBT children. They embraced their child. They began their own non-profit organization: Proud Parents of Lesbian and Gay Children (PPLGC) and have sponsored events to raise funds for scholarships for LGBT kids. They are active in PFLAG encouraging other parents of gay kids to attend the meetings. Melanie now works for Safe Schools South Florida. Both Mark and Melanie continue to be extremely active in the Safe To Be Me Coalition.


This year’s event was titled: Celebrating the Voices of LGBTQ Youth and Their Families. It featured a variety of workshops led by a consortium of mental health professionals, geared to helping youth and their families deal with the day-to-day issues which may arise from being gay.

The 2010 Valuing Our Families Award was presented to the Packer family. “Mitch and Patricia Packer and their transgender son Tobias embody everything that is the spirit and goal of Valuing Our Families,” said the Executive Director of SunServe. “The incredible journey of their love and support as their son transitioned to a young man is awe inspiring. They are truly a model for families as to what it is to love and support each other unconditionally.”


This year's National Award was presented to Marriage Equality Spokespersons GEORGE TAKEI (Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu) and his partner BRAD ALTMAN.  The awards were presented by SHARON GLESS, SunServe’s spokesperson and 2004 national award winner.  This year's conference also included the Florida Premier of Songs of My Family – a song cycle about GLBT families based on interviews of past participants in Valuing Our Families Conference.


Elizabeth Schwartz's law practice focuses on representing the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender community in family formation and dissolution matters. Elizabeth is co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Association of South Florida and a member of the National Family Law Advisory Council of the National Center for Lesbian rights. She is a founding member of the Aqua Foundation for Women, raising money by and for South Florida’s lesbian community. She serves as Vice president of the Miami Beach Bar Association and is a member of the city of Miami Beach’s Community Relations Board. She was recognized for her outstanding service to GLBT families throughout Florida.


Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, the young gay man brutally beaten and hung on a fence to die in sub-zero weather in Wyoming in 1998 was honored for her advocacy as executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Peter Paige, who played Emmett on Showtime’s Queer as Folk was recognized for his film, “Say Uncle,” which counters negative stereotypes of gay men as caretakers for children. Sharon Gless, spokesperson for SunServe, and a past national award winner presented both awards.


ARMISTEAD MAUPIN Though Armistead Maupin was one of the first of a new breed of openly gay authors, his appeal has always resided in his inclusiveness as a storyteller. His beloved characters from 28 Barbary Lane in the Tales of the City series have cut an unprecedented path through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to six internationally bestselling novels to a Peabody Award-winning miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney, Billy Campbell, and Thomas Gibson. Tales of the City placed out gay characters in the center of American family life. No fanfare, no excuses, no stereotypes, just real people who happen to be gay and part of the family.


US CONGRESSMAN BARNEY FRANK ( D-MA ) Our nation’s first “out”representative in the US Congress has won the respect not only of his constituents in Massachusetts, but of his fellow legislators in the US Capitol as well. He has been re-elected to the US congress by his district every election since his coming out in the late 80’s. He has spoken forcefully against LGBT discriminatory practices and laws in the workplace, on the national and international scene and has deftly supported LGBT community causes in politically charged settings.


KAREN DOERING (Florida State Award) Karen Doering has extensive experience litigating civil rights cases. She first joined Equality Florida in 1998 as a volunteer attorney, and left private practice in February 2001 to help create Equality Florida's Legal Advocacy Project. While at Equality Florida, she worked cooperatively with various national and statewide organizations including Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and NCLR. While in private practice, Doering handled primarily race and gender discrimination class action cases. She has also worked with NCLR and Lambda since 1995 as a cooperating attorney. She has been at the forefront of some of our community’s most important legal struggles.

NAME WITHHELD This award recipient is unable to have his name appear on this web site because he is in the process of adopting a child. Attend our next conference to work toward changing Florida's outrageous discriminatory laws.


ROSIE AND KELLI O’DONNELL In addition to raising their four children with tremendous love and honesty, Rosie and Kelli have managed to find time to be the most compelling advocates for LGBT equality. No one family has done more to raise the visibility and issues of gay parents than Kelli and Rosie. Their dedication to this movement, this community is only surpassed by their devotion to their own family. Anyone who ever watched Rosie’s popular TV talk show knows her as an advocate for children. Her 4 All Kids Foundation has distributed more than $56 million dollars to children’s organizations and centers since its inception in 1997. And when Rosie powerfully, passionately, intelligently and courageously came out as a gay parent on “Primetime Live”three years ago, she forced a national discussion on the issues around foster care and adoption and so-called non-traditional families. When she told millions of Americans “I am a gay parent”she made gay parenting a reality for so many who had never given it a thought. Kelli and Rosie have been honored by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, HRC, Lambda Legal and the Family Pride Coalition, just to name a few.


CAROLE BENOWITZ has been called the “Johnny Apple Seed”of PFLAG since she has been instrumental in the founding of just about every PFLAG chapter in Florida. That is not all. She has founded chapters in GA, MS, AL, Puerto Rico and Mexico City. A member of the national Board of Directors of PFLAG and the Florida State Coordinator for the organization, she recently started a chapter in three days in Tallahassee That was while she was lobbying for the passage of the Dignity for All Students Act! Carole has said “My work is not done until every gay, lesbian and transgender person has all the same rights as I do.

STEVEN ALICEA knows first hand what it means to be a gay child in foster care. Between the ages of 10 and 17 he was in seventeen different placements. When he came out as a gay teen he experienced rejection, hostility and attempts to “cure him.”When he was taken in by Miami’s Pridelines’Youth Services Exec. Dir. Denise Hueso he came to learn the trans formative power of being in a loving family. Now he is active in forming Gay-Straight Alliances in schools and has addressed foster care parents about the special needs of GLBT teens. In 2004 he was the recipient of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s prestigious Collin Higgins Foundation Courage Award for his advocacy for gay youth.


SHARON GLESS Twice recipient of an Emmy for her starring role as Chris Cagney in the 80’s hit television series, Cagney and Lacey, and winner of the Golden Globe Award for her starring role in The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, Sharon Gless has taken on a new persona as Debbie Novotny in Showtime Cable TV's pop series Queer as Folk. She took on that role at a time when most other actors were shying away from controversial gay affirmative television programming. Her support of LGBT families does not stop with her spirited television portray of the quintessential PFLAG mom. She has been a highly visible and deeply valued friend who has readily demonstrated her commitment to equality for the LGBT community. In 2002 she and Sir Ian McKlellan were "Celebrity Grand Marshals" leading the annual Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Pride parade before a crowd of more than 500,000 spectators in San Francisco. That same weekend she appeared with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.


DOUG HOUGHTON has been a critical care nurse practitioner in the Ryder Trauma Center of the University of Miami/Jackson Health System for the past six years, he runs his own real estate investment company and is a single father to a 14 year old boy, Oscar. Doug and Oscar were plaintiffs in the legal challenge to Florida’s prohibition of gay adoption, supported by the ACLU.

WAYNE LaRUE SMTTH & DAN SKAHEN have been partnered for fourteen years. While wanting a family they have devoted themselves to parenting children unwanted by others. In 1999, they joined several other plaintiffs and the ACLU in a legal challenge against the adoption ban in Federal Court. That case has been a rallying point for many in Florida and throughout the nation who are working to promote gay and lesbian families in legislative and court proceedings They live in Key West where Wayne is a commercial lawyer in private practice and Dan is a real estate broker.

EDITH LEDERBERG, Executive Director of the Broward County Area Agency on Aging, and her co-worker and confident, Noble McArtor, had a vision of opening a day care facility to meet the special needs of LGBT seniors and their caregivers. She wanted to make a difference for frail LGBT seniors who often face a senior care system laced with stigma and ignorance. Noble’s tragic and sudden death increased her resolve to make this dream a reality. Edith marshaled every resource from right here in her our own back yard to Washington D.C., to open the nation’s first adult day care center to meet the needs of the LGBT community. Thanks to Edith, the Noble A. McArtor Adult Day Care Center will forever be a safe, warm and empowering home away from home for our seniors.

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Visit our YouTube channel for videos! YouTube

Visit the Community Outreach page for more info on the annual Valuing Our Families Conference.

Stay tuned to our News page for info on the next Valuing Our Families Conference!


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