Stewart Butler, a longtime activist for gay rights in New Orleans, will receive the Ben Smith Award, which honors people who have demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of civil liberties in Louisiana.
The award, which is named after the late Ben Smith, a founder of the ACLU of Louisiana and a civil rights lawyer who was arrested for his work to end segregation, will be given at a dinner honoring Butler on March 22, 2014 at the New Orleans Marriot in the city’s Convention Center.
Butler is recognized as a long time advocate for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in his community. Having entered politics as a student in the 1950s, he began his civil rights work in New Orleans helping with voter registration runs in the 1970s.
In 1980, he was a founding member of the Louisiana Lesbian And Gay Political Action Caucus, an advocacy group that was committed to attaining equal rights for sexual and gender minorities in the state. He is also the only person to have participated in all three attempts to pass a New Orleans Gay Rights Ordinance, in 1984, 1986, and 1991. He has served on the boards of many LGBT organizations, including the Lesbian and Gay Community Center, LAGPAC, Celebration New Orleans, and PFLAG.
This isn’t the first time Butler has been recognized for his work in advancing civil rights; he has received numerous honors, including the ACLU-LAGPAC Gittings-Hay Award for service in 1985, Louisiana Council for Equal Rights Award for outstanding achievement in politics in 1991, the Human Rights Campaign Outstanding Leadership and Service Award in 1993, and the 2004 Equality Louisiana’s Community First Award.