Longtime local LGBT activist joins Judy Shepard atop Black Tie bill
The Black Tie Dinner Board of Directors announced this week that activist and community volunteer Steve Atkinson has been chosen as the recipient of the 2009 Kuchling Humanitarian Award.
Laurie Foley, 2009 Black Tie co-chair, praised Atkinson as "unselfish in his commitment to work for full equality for GLBT individuals."
She added, "Without a doubt, Steve’s life reflects the ideals of the Kuchling Humanitarian Award. Acting entirely in a volunteer capacity, Steve has devoted his life to the betterment of the GLBT community and has achieved superior results." Foley said.
For his part, Atkinson said this week he is "very excited and very humbled" to be chosen to receive the award.
"I was totally surprised, and it was a very nice surprise," he said. "This means a whole lot to me. I have always viewed the Kuchling Award as kind of the ‘biggie’ in our community. So many great people have received the award — people I love and respect and admire, people who are personal heroes of mine, mentors and good friends."
Atkinson said he is especially honored to receive the award when he looks at it in historical context.
"Any kind of recognition I have ever received has always made me think of our history, and the big picture, and how proud I am of what we have accomplished," Atkinson said. "I am so proud to have been a part of that, but I am just one of many. It’s not just about me, but about all the groups I have been involved with and all the people I have worked with over the years," he said.
Atkinson also said it is gratifying to be recognized by the community he loves so dearly.
"I really do think we have the best LGBT community anywhere. It just means so much to me," he said. "This community really is way, way up there on the list of things that are most important in my life. There’s my husband, my family and friends, and then this community. It is all sort of overwhelming, but in a very good way, to get this recognition."
Foley said Atkinson has "served as a shining example of leadership" for more than 16 years.
"From walking the streets of Dallas for political campaigns or holding a placard to protest injustice, he has worked tirelessly to move the GLBT community toward full equality at the local, state and national levels," she said.
Locally, Atkinson has led the Lesbian/Gay Political Coalition of Dallas, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Leadership Lambda.
He has also helped raise funds for the community as a past board member of Black Tie Dinner, a committee chair for AIDS Lifewalk, and chair for the 2009 AIDS Interfaith Network Bloomin’ Ball.
Since 2002, Atkinson has served in numerous positions on the Human Rights Campaign’s local steering committee.
Louise Young, who has worked in several different organizations with Atkinson, praised his commitment to the community.
"Steve has made an enormous difference over the years to our LGBT community — in Dallas, in Texas and on a national level. He is one of those rare individuals who has the passion to drive change and the organizational skills to ensure his leadership actions are effective," Young said.
"Steve’s dedication to our community continues to motivate and inspire us," she added.
On a statewide level, Atkinson served as co-chair for Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now Equality Texas) and has worked on numerous legislative issues affecting the LGBT community.
Anne Fay, national co-chair of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, called Atkinson "a stellar volunteer for the Human Rights Campaign both locally and nationally."
She continued, "He is politically astute and understands what are the important issues facing our community and how we move from point A to point B to reach our desired goals.
"Because Steve has been so intimately involved with other local and state GLBT organizations, HRC has benefited and ultimately has delivered more targeted results," Fay said. "We are all thrilled that Steve is being recognized as the consummate advocate by Black Tie Dinner."
Atkinson is also co-chair of HRC’s Board of Governors. Before serving as co-chair, he was Lobby Day Task Force co-chair and served on the nominations committee, public policy committee, board of governors executive committee and performance management committee.
Professionally, Atkinson is a realtor at Keller Williams Realty in Dallas. He and his partner of 20 years, local artist Ted Kincaid, were married in California in July 2008.
Black Tie co-chair Ron Guillard said Atkinson’s work "has truly improved life for GLBT individuals in Dallas. His efforts led to the adoption of nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies at Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and the city of Dallas, which benefit all Dallas residents, as well as specific protections for students and faculty of the Dallas Independent School District."
Guillard added, "Steve was one of the leading organizers to establish nondiscrimination ordinances to provide protections for the GLBT community employed by these public entities. Though this process took years to accomplish, Steve never gave up hope, and succeeded at what many were certain was a lost cause."
The Kuchling Humanitarian Award has been presented each year since 1983 as part of the Black Tie Dinner event. Black Tie officials said the award is given to "local individuals who have made extraordinary gifts of their time and talents on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community."
The 2008 recipients were attorney Rebecca Covell and community historian Phillip Johnson.
The 2009 Black Tie Dinner will be held Oct. 3 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. The theme for this year’s event ia "Courage. Hope. Inspiration."
Also during the dinner, Judy Shepard will receive the 2009 Elizabeth Birch Award. Shepard is the mother of anti-gay hate murder victim Matthew Shepard.
This year’s event also features a raffle for a Mercedes-Benz 2010 GLK350 SUV, underwritten by Silver Sponsor Park Place Motorcars Bedford and Park Place Motorcars Dallas. For more information about Black Tie Dinner, the car raffle or this year’s event, call 972-733-9200, ext. 1 or go online to www.blacktie.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 5, 2009.