Just over a month before the city’s annual Rainbow Key awards are handed out, the prestigious awards for LGBT activists came under scrutiny Monday night as the West Hollywood City Council questioned the process of selecting the recipients.
The council did not have any problems with the seven people recommended by the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board (LGAB). However, council members took issue with the fact only two of the seven honorees were West Hollywood residents, and wondered why only older activists were being honored.
“I am questioning the looking-back nature of the list,” said Councilmember John D’Amico “There are not any future-thinking people on the list.”
“West Hollywood is both a city and also a state of mind,” said Councilmember John Duran. “We have 37,000 who call this home, but we know we’re also home to hundreds of thousands of others who identify with the sacred space that West Hollywood is. It is incumbent upon us to sort of balance those two populations.”
This year’s Rainbow Key Award recipients are transgender activist Chaz Bono, author/activist Felice Picano, LGBT activist Torie Osborn, transgender activist Drian Juarez, LGBT historian/author Stuart Timmons and Virginia Uribe and Gail Rolf who work with Project 10, which supports LGBT youth in schools. Only Bono and Picano live in West Hollywood.
The ceremony is Tuesday, June 11 in the City Council chamber in the West Hollywood Library. That ceremony will be held as part of a fundraiser for the Lavender Effect, a non-profit seeking to create an LGBTQ museum and cultural center in the city.
Jeff Book, the staff liaison to LGAB, said that this year’s recipients just happened to be people who have had long careers of activism. The recipients are also based on who is available to be at the ceremony, he said.
The council instructed LGAB to come up with specific criteria for determining future recipients and to find ways to better promote the nomination process.
D’Amico even went as far as to request that the LGAB nominating subcommittee meet again and report back at the May 20 Council meeting with suggestions for younger residents worthy of the award. However, the other council members disagreed, saying it is too close to the ceremony to add recipients and criteria hasn’t been established.
Since 1993, the city has been giving out the awards to people and organizations that have made “significant contributions” to the LGBT community. Past recipients have included LGBT rights attorney Diane Abbitt, Abbey founder David Cooley, transgender attorney Mia Yamamoto, longtime LGBT journalist Karen Ocamb and the June Mazer Lesbian Archives.
For many years, the council handed out Rainbow Key awards individually during council meetings throughout the year. In 2007, the council started presenting the awards at a large June ceremony. That ceremony – originally a lavish luncheon, later a splashy evening reception – was criticized by residents for being too expensive (an estimated $10,000 one year) and honoring too many people (15 people were honored one year).
At the request of the council, the ceremony has been scaled down. This year’s ceremony is budgeted at $2,500, according to Elizabeth Savage, the city’s director of human services, which oversees LGAB.
“The awards have evolved over the years and will continue to evolve,” said Savage.
West Hollywood, more so than most cities in the US is a place where any couple can walk down the street holding hands with a sense of safety and freedom in their identity. Yes, a tolerant, progressive city, that is a refuge for LBGT and everyone else is a “state of mind”, and I absolutely agree with John Duran on this. Whether 35,000 or 40,000, we should not take Weho for granted. That’s what PRIDE is all about and we are lucky to live it everyday!
He’s referring to balancing the acknowledgment of awards to the population who live in the city of WeHo vs. the population of people that surround it, who also include important contributors to the LGBT movement. That population is in the hundreds of thousands.
He’s referring to balancing acknowledgment of awards for people outside and inside of WeHo.
OOPS! I’ve heard it is 34,000 and Duran said 37,000. (Sorry about that.)
@Snarkygal – You are right. Duran’s math has always been a bit off. “hundreds of thousands?” In this quote he has upped the city’s pop. by 3,000. I’ve heard it is 37,000. Recently, he said 40,000. His mouth works just ahead of his brain. There was some guy on the computer at council last night who said it’s such a beautiful city with the Getty museum…etc. People who live in WeHo sometimes do not know where Los Angeles begins and that WeHo is NOT part of Los Angeles. It is scary but the developers seem to like him. He says… Read more »
What is so scary about thinking that way? He’s simply acknowledging that WeHo is a center for LGBT people. I live outside the city limits (although I lived in WeHo for quite some time), and yet I get the “state of mind” he is referring to. A commitment to the gay rights movement and progressive politics.
I think its great that he acknowledges those of us who don’t live inside the city limits, yet identify with the politics and attitude of the establishment there. And I do view it as a sacred space.
““West Hollywood is both a city and also a state of mind,” said Councilmember John Duran” – Councilman Duran has gone off the deep end. A state of mind? C’mon. Does he really believe that?
” we’re also home to hundreds of thousands of others who identify with the sacred space that West Hollywood is.” I can’t help but laugh at this. Sacred?
HOW DID HE GET ELECTED AGAIN? How can anyone take this man seriously? I sure can’t. I think it is scary he thinks this way.
So, let me get this right…for this City to hand out awards (which they do for EVERYTHING) all you have to do is live in the City and be able to show up at the ceremony? I guess they will have to “defrock” all those women who have banners for Women’s Month; Elizabeth Taylor, Hilda Solis and the like. And Rhianna had better give back the key to the city or whatever she got when she was presented the award somewhere in Los Angeles. Really, people…get a grip.