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On Sunday, March 16, Equality Florida Institute will present the Voice for Equality Award to multi- award-winning actress Sharon Gless and the six couples who have joined Equality Florida Institute as plaintiffs in a lawsuit to overturn Florida’s ban on marriage equality. The awards recognize the recipients’ steadfast commitment to LGBT equality and will be presented at the Equality Florida Miami Gala at the Pérez Art Museum (1103 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami).

In a year that has seen many landmark milestones and victories, the Gala will provide the LGBT community and their allies a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the momentum that is building throughout the state and throughout the nation.

“My role in Queer as Folk was a life-changer for me,” said Gless. “I thought I was totally aware of what it must be like to be gay. I knew nothing. Being ostracized; not being given the same rights that I enjoy. It’s insane. I knew then that I wanted to become active and do what I could to help. Everyone should be treated equally and be given the same privileges – including the right to marry.”

A part-time resident of South Florida for more than 20 years, multiple Emmy and Golden Globe winner Sharon Gless has been a vocal advocate for the LGBT community for many years. In 2013 she took a leading role in Equality Florida’s Get Engaged campaign, a statewide public education campaign to build support for marriage equality in Florida. She served as Grand Marshal in the Miami Beach Pride Parade, received the Gay Icon Award at Philadelphia QFest, the PFLAG Ally award in Toronto and was honored by L.A.’s Gay & Elder Housing. Norman Lear’s People for the American Way also recognized her for her unwavering support of human rights and she is an active participant in the ongoing struggle to prevent the overturn of Roe vs. Wade.

“There are many celebrities who call Florida home, and we call on them to join Sharon Gless in publicly expressing their support for equality,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. “We are at a tipping point in the movement for LGBT equality, and the voice of allies like Sharon Gless can make a huge difference in educating the public.”

Following last summer’s historic Supreme Court decision on DOMA, Equality Florida issued a call for potential plaintiffs to join with Equality Florida in a lawsuit seeking marriage equality. More than 1,000 people responded by signing on to GetEngaged.org. Following months of vetting and personal interviews, the six plaintiff couples were chosen. They are: Catherina Pareto & Karla Arguello, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez & David Price, Vanessa & Melanie Alenier, Todd & Jeff Delmay, Summer Greene & Pamela Faerber, and Don Price Johnston & Jorge Isaias Diaz.

“These six couples have committed to a life in the spotlight, putting themselves and their families under intense scrutiny as the court case progresses,” said Nadine Smith. “They are brave, and they are courageous, taking this important step so that they, and thousands of other couples in Florida, will have the right to marry the person he or she loves.”

As the community celebrates the milestones already achieved throughout the state, Nadineequality_1 Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, will present perhaps one of the most significant State-of-the-State addresses ever, honoring those who have worked so hard to make these achievements a reality, as well as outlining the work that is yet to be done.

Guests will also enjoy sumptuous hors d’oeuvres and an open bar, along with music from Grammy award-winning saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia, all taking place on the expansive terrace with panoramic views of Biscayne Bay.

Recognized as an “architectural tour de force,” the Pérez Art Museum is the ideal venue for the Miami Gala, which has blossomed into a “must attend” event that brings together nearly 500 of South Florida’s community and political influencers.

The Equality Florida Annual Miami Gala takes place at 6 PM on Sunday, March 16 at the Pérez Art Museum, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets are $150, with sponsorships beginning at $500. For tickets or further information, go to www.eqfl.org/miamigala, or call (813) 870-3735.

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