JUDY SHEPARD TO RECEIVE THE “ELIZABETH BIRCH EQUALITY AWARD” AT BLACK TIE DINNER ON OCTOBER 3, 2009.

DALLAS Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998, has been announced as the 2009 recipient of the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award. Mrs. Shepard will attend the 28th annual Black Tie Dinner to receive the Award. The Dinner will be held on October 3, 2009 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. To honor national leaders, and in recognition of the inspirational leadership of former Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Elizabeth Birch, this award is given discretionally (but no more than annually) to an individual, organization or company that has made a significant contribution of national scope to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Elizabeth Birch received the first such Award after which the Award was renamed in her honor. Recipients since Birch include Showtime Networks/Robert Greenblatt, Alan Cumming, Sharon Stone and most recently, Bishop V. Gene Robinson.

In October 1998, Judy and Dennis Shepard lost their 21 year-old son, Matthew, to a murder motivated by anti-gay hate. Matthew’s death moved many thousands of people around the world to attend vigils and rallies in his memory. Determined to prevent others from suffering their son’s fate, Judy and Dennis decided to turn their grief into action and established the Matthew Shepard Foundation to carry on Matthew’s legacy. The Foundation is dedicated to working toward the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice, diversity awareness & education, and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

As Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Judy oversees the management and strategic direction of the organization, while traveling across the nation speaking to audiences about what they can do as individuals and communities to make this world a more accepting place for everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity and expression, or sexual orientation. Speaking from a mother’s perspective, Judy focuses her efforts on the prevention of hate crimes urging everyone to replace hate with compassion and understanding.

Under Judy’s leadership, the Foundation has become a well-established, highly effective and much respected institution in the civil rights community. She has spoken to over one million young people about the impact of hate speech and violence, the importance of understanding and appreciating diversity in all of its forms and has inspired countless individuals and communities to play a role in making the world a safer place for all of us.

“Judy’s distinction of being one of the most respected leaders in this country’s civil rights movement clearly makes her a worthy recipient of the award. As Judy continues to spread her message of understanding, compassion and acceptance she also continues to serve as a source of inspiration for millions of GLBT people,” said Black Tie Co-Chair Laurie Foley.

Co-Chair Ron Guillard continued by saying, “While some parents would shy away from talking about such horrendous events, Judy Shepard has found the courage to speak directly about the nature of hate and violence and how youth can combat it. Through the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Judy has successfully drawn the nation’s attention toward, and championed the passage of, hate crimes legislation that is inclusive of the GLBT community, as well as provided programs and much needed support for LGBTQ youth. For this we commend her.”

The theme for this year’s dinner is “Courage Hope Inspiration.” Premium tables and special seating can be secured now by becoming a Sponsor. Individual sponsorships, start at as little as $100 more per person than the standard $300 Dinner ticket. General table sales begin this summer based on availability. For more information about Black Tie Dinner including sponsorships and updates visit the blacktie.org.

About Black Tie Dinner

Black Tie Dinner, Inc. is a non-profit organization that raises funds for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender supportive organizations through a premier event of empowerment, education and entertainment in partnership with the community. The event has headlined local and national celebrities and leaders such as Maya Angelou, Alan Cumming, Geena Davis, Goldie Hawn, Governor Ann Richards, Sharon Stone, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and most recently, Kenneth Cole. Black Tie Dinner began in Dallas in 1982 to help support the Human Rights Campaign with 140 guests in attendance at the first dinner, which raised $6,000.
In 2008, Black Tie Dinner distributed $1.19 million to 18 local beneficiaries and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. In its 27-year history, Black Tie Dinner has distributed close to $13 million.

The 2009 Black Tie Dinner will be held at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel October 3, 2009. This year’s car raffle is the All-New Mercedes-Benz 2010 GLK350 SUV graciously underwritten by Silver Sponsor Park Place Motorcars Bedford and Park Place Motorcars Dallas. Raffle tickets, priced at $100 each, may be purchased from any of the 2 local beneficiaries, DFW Federal Club members, HRC Governing and Steering committee members, or the Black Tie Dinner Board of Directors and Advisory. For more information about Black Tie Dinner, the car raffle or this year’s event, call 972-733-9200, ext. 1 or visit http://www.blacktie.org.

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