Lambda Legal observes 4th anniversary of big victory

Posted on 05 Jul 2007 at 8:57pm
By Ben Briscoe Staff Writer


Lambda Legal regional attorney Ken Upton presents the Lawrence and Garner Courage Award to Fort Worth transgender teen Rochelle Evans and her mother Lenora Felipe. (BEN BRISCOE/Dallas Voice)

Lambda Legal held a celebration Saturday night, June 30, at the Dallas Contemporary in honor of the fourth anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas.

The landmark court case resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Texas’s sodomy laws.

“This case solidified the legal LGBT rights movement,” Lambda Legal Director of Education and Public Affairs Leslie Gabel-Brett said. “For the first time, the highest court in the nation was saying we have the right to be treated with the same dignity, respect and privacy as everyone else.”

In addition to celebrating the case, the organization passed out two of its annual awards, the Profile Award, and the Lawrence and Garner Courage Awards.

The Profile Award went to Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who could not make the ceremony due to her work in Washington.

“I’ve been in Dallas about ten years, and I have always heard about Eddie Bernice Johnson. I always heard she was our ally,” event co-chair Roman Smith said. “But to actually go out and research her and find out the things she has done for our community, it was actually amazing. I wanted to go out and give her a big hug, so I wish she was here.”

The representative is one of only two Texas legislators who scored perfectly on the Human Right’s Campaign equality scorecard for the last three sessions of Congress. She has also worked to combat HIV and school bullying because of sexual orientation.

The Lawrence and Garner Courage Awards went to Forth Worth transgender teen Rochelle Evans and her mother Lenora Felipe.

In April, Evans was suspended from Fort Worth’s Eastern Hills High School and charged with disorderly conduct after an assistant principal demanded she remove a wig and high heels. With the support of Felipe, Evans complained about the charge and eventually won the right to use a single-stall bathroom, rather than the boys’ or girls’ restroom, and the right to be identified as she, not he.

But back in April, Evan’s mind never thought of awards. She just wanted the right to be herself, heels, hair and all, everywhere she went, especially school.

“When I came to school for the first time I was pretty excited but I felt very scared to come out and say, I’m Rochelle now, can you except me,” Evans said. “I was telling my peers this is who I am, will you except me for who I am and still be my friend.”

That’s exactly the courage and determination that her attorney, Jerry Simoneaux.

“We have a national LGBT organization who is honoring a student who stood up and said this isn’t right, I deserve to be who I am, I deserve an education like everybody else, and I’m not being quite until I get that education,” Simoneaux said. “It’s wonderful for those two reasons. One is that she is transgender, so we are honoring a transgender person. And two, we are honoring someone who at a very young age stood up against a very scary administration and demanded her rights to be who she is.”

For Evans, the award served as a reminder that her work and courage isn’t done yet.

“It just a great honor. I plan to use my recognition to help other transgender youth and teens go to school in a safe environment and be comfortable with who they are.”

E-mail Briscoe@DallasVoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 6, 2007.

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