Richmond Gay Community Foundation Executive Director’s Op-ed Wins “Best In Show”
Last night Virginia’s marriage equality campaign received a standing ovation. The Richmond Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America presented Bill Harrison’s op-ed, “Gay Marriage, the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time,” not one, but two awards. The article won first place in the editorial competition, beating out five other entries. Runners-up were the Virginia Community College System, Virginia Commonwealth University, The Greater Richmond ARC and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
An excerpt from the OpEd:
It’s not rocket science. We no more choose our sexual orientations or gender identities than we choose our skin colors. No decent and honorable society would permit discrimination based on race or gender, and I submit that no such civilization would allow discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The ACLU agrees.
The ACLU of Virginia recently announced that it will challenge in federal court the Virginia ban on same-sex marriage. A few years ago Virginia voters defeated same-sex couples’ right to marry. Recent surveys indicate the numbers have changed, with 55 percent of Virginians polled believing that marriage between same-sex couples should be allowed. But because public opinion may have changed is not why the law needs to be changed.
Nearing the end of the night’s festivities, it was then announced that Harrison’s entry also won “Best In Show.” Over 150 entries were in competition. The annual PRSA program recognizes the most creative and effective communication strategies and tactics happening across Virginia.
Harrison’s article appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch just days before the historic ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The op-ed argued that denying gay and lesbian people the right to marry was just as immoral as denying rights based on gender or race. The competition judges were highly impressed, stating, “Superb piece of writing. The case was clearly argued and written in terms that any person could relate to, regardless of his or her stance in the issue. The article is very conversational yet authoritative.
“It was overwhelming to see so many allies applaud the idea of same-sex marriage,” said Harrison. “It was like an out-of-body experience for me. I had assumed an institution such as a university or an ad agency would win ‘Best In Show’ as that is normally the case. When they made the announcement I could not move. I got lost in the crowd while headed to the podium,” he laughed.
The Board of Directors of the Richmond Gay Community Foundation is elated with the acknowledgment. “This is fantastic news and a well-deserved recognition,” said board chair Beth Marschak. “We are indeed fortunate to have Bill’s leadership.”
This was the 67th annual awards dinner of PRSA Richmond. The event was held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
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