Leadership: Councilmember Susan Guidry

The All-American Acclaim Awards Gala is less than two weeks away, on Saturday, October 8. If you are feeling anxious about Election Day (we won’t remind you how close that date is), the Acclaim Awards Gala will give you an opportunity to let go and have some fun as we come together to celebrate the people who devote much of their lives and careers to uplifting our community and making Louisiana a more accepting, loving, and beautiful place to live.

Last week, you got to know a bit more about the amazing work of Louisiana Trans Advocates and Earl and Michael Benjamin-Robinson. Today, we want to introduce you to Councilmember Susan Guidry, the recipient of this year’s award for Political Leadership.

Councilmember Susan Guidry was elected to the New Orleans City Council as the District “A” representative in March, 2010 and was elected to a second term in 2014.

A native of New Orleans, Susan is a graduate of Archbishop Chapelle High School. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Southwestern Louisiana and a Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from Loyola Law School. Her professional career includes working as a teacher, an attorney and a community activist.

As an attorney, Susan was a member of the litigation team that represented the Port of New Orleans and successfully settled the Port of New Orleans’ suit against its insurers for Hurricane Katrina-related damage to 22 miles of riverfront property.

Susan has served on the Council’s Utility Committee since 2010. Early on, Susan focused on an agenda growing New Orleans’ green industry and energy efficiency, including spearheading the implementation of the Council’s award-winning Energy Smart program. In late 2010, she received the Urban Conservancy’s Leadership Award for her advocacy in the New Orleans area.

Susan has served as Chair of the Council’s Criminal Justice Committee throughout her tenure on the council. In that role, she has displayed an unwavering commitment to reform New Orleans’ criminal justice system and to protect its most vulnerable residents. She tackled budget reform with all of the city’s criminal justice entities. She facilitated the agreement between the non-profit BreakOUT! and the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) that led to BreakOUT!’s involvement in shaping the language on Bias-Free Policing in the federal consent decree. Her reconciliation work with the NOPD and the Mardi Gras Indians virtually ended hostilities and inspired a new era of mutual respect between the two groups. Susan worked to end the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s office’s policy of cooperation with the Immigration Service on “ICE Holds” that kept people in jail beyond the time that existing laws allowed. She has championed various other reforms, including keeping New Orleans’ children out of the adult criminal justice system, safely reducing the city’s rate of over-incarceration and reducing penalties for marijuana possession.

Susan says that she owes much of who she is to her mother, Gail Compagno, and her husband, Hervin Guidry.

It is both a pleasure and an honor to present the award for Political Leadership to such an incredible friend and ally as Susan Guidry. I know that you don’t want to miss the opportunity to applaud her and all of this year’s Acclaim Award recipients as they each take the stage at our gala on October 8. I cannot wait to see you there!

Yours in Equality,


SarahJane Brady
Executive Director
Forum for Equality
2016 Acclaim Award Recipients
Chairs’ Award: Michael and Earl Benjamin-Robinson
Political Advocacy: Louisiana Trans Advocates
Political Leadership: Councilmember Susan Guidry

Have you bought your tickets to the Acclaim Awards Gala? Purchase here now.

All-American Acclaim Awards Gala: Saturday, October 8, 2016
The Westin New Orleans Canal Place
100 Rue Iberville, New Orleans

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Congratulations, Earl and Michael!


At the All-American Acclaim Awards Gala on October 8, we will celebrate and honor the amazing people who uplift and fight for our community every day across Louisiana. Now and in the coming days, you will learn more about several such individuals who are very special to us: this year’s Acclaim Award recipients.

The recipients of the 2016 Chairs’ Award are Michael And Earl Benjamin-Robinson, two exceptional advocates for equality and social justice and the first same-sex couple to marry in Louisiana. They were married by Judge Paula Brown on Monday, June 29, 2015 after fourteen happy years together. For more than a decade prior to their marriage, Michael and Earl dedicated much of their lives and careers to caring for and empowering LGBT people and persons of color.

In 2004, seeing and experiencing a tremendous void in culturally specific and relevant African American LGBT empowerment and support activities in Mississippi, Michael and Earl founded Pride of Mississippi, Inc. Pride of Mississippi was a 501(c)3 community based organization that took an innovative approach to HIV/AIDS prevention education. The CBO focused on empowering individuals through their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Thus, Pride of Mississippi worked to validate LGBT individuals’ experiences and their right to existence, and delivered culturally specific and relevant health education.

In 2005, Michael and Earl created Mississippi’s first LGBT safe space and resource center: The Living Room. In the same year, they also founded Mississippi’s first AIDS Awareness Walk, The Walk of Grace in partnership with Grace House, Inc.

As a result of their work on Pride of Mississippi, Michael and Earl went on to establish Mississippi Black Pride – Mississippi’s first gay pride celebration. This pride event was one of the first to work with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, offering HIV screening to attendees. This set a precedent for HIV screening activities to take place at future pride events around the country.

After moving to New Orleans in 2009, Earl and Michael continued their advocacy and social justice work, working in the areas of HIV/AIDS community planning, population health, tobacco education and prevention, violence prevention, health communications, and mental health. In 2014, Michael was instrumental in pioneering Baton Rouge’s only HIV/AIDS Awareness Walk in several years, the annual Red Wig Walk.

In late 2014, Michael and Earl began to develop The Behavioral & Community Health (BACH) Group. The BACH Group, LLC is a small population/health disparities consultation firm. In 2016, after the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, BACH took on pro bono work that consisted of convening Baton Rouge community members in discussions on police brutality, community trauma and policy consents. This organizing resulted in a published community report that outlined community-policing recommendations.

It was an incredible honor for be present for Earl and Michael’s marriage in 2015, and it will be our great pleasure to present them with the Chairs’ Award at this year’s gala. We hope that you will join us as we celebrate this couple and their many years of advocacy on October 8.

Yours in Equality,

Sean Sullivan
Chair, Forum for Equality Foundation

2016 Acclaim Award Recipients
Chairs’ Award: Michael and Earl Benjamin-Robinson
Political Advocacy: Louisiana Trans Advocates
Political Leadership: Councilmember Susan Guidry

Purchase Tickets Here!

Saturday, October 8, 2016
The Westin New Orleans Canal Place
100 Rue Iberville, New Orleans, LA

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All American Acclaim Awards

14241429_1770737659880362_1765200972459941532_oWe hope you will join us at the Forum for Equality’s All-American Acclaim Awards Gala at the Westin New Orleans on Saturday, October 8th!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Election Season! Whether you are #WithHer or want to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain (or none of the above), join us for one of the most patriotic events of the year with a star-spangled silent auction, open bar, dinner and rocking entertainment provided by The N’awlins Johnnys!

Reserve your ticket and purchase your discounted Early Bird tickets here!

2016 Acclaim Award Winners:

Leadership: Councilmember Susan Guidry
Political Advocacy: Louisiana Trans Advocates
Chairs Award: Michael and Earl Benjamin-Robinson
Do you and your friends want to enjoy the dinner together? If so, sign up to be a Table Captain where 10 of you can share a table! All Table Captains are invited to our Patron Party in appreciation of your commitment to making the Acclaim Awards Gala the best event of the year! Send me an email at sarahjane@forumforequality.org to sign up.

I look forward to celebrating with you at one of the most memorable events of the year!
Yours in Equality,

SarahJane Brady

Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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Love for Orlando

13392167_10154302538049337_3091589308810521108_oFirst and foremost, we are reeling in pain because of this hateful attack in Orlando. Despite recent advancements in LGBT rights, this shooting demonstrates just how much hatred and prejudice is still aimed toward our community. This tragedy also reflects the violence faced every day by LGBT individuals, especially by persons of color, even in spaces intended to reaffirm their expression. There is still much work to be done in furthering acceptance of LGBT identities.

There will be a New Orleans Memorial Vigil this evening at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church (1313 Esplanade Avenue) starting at 6:30 PM tonight. In Baton Rouge, there will be a Candlelight Vigil at the Mississippi River Levee at 6:00 PM near the intersection of River Road and Florida. In Alexandria, there will be a Unity, Solidarity and Remembrance Gathering at 7:00 PM at the Holocaust Memorial Statue. Tomorrow evening, a Candlelight Vigil will be held in Lafayette at 7:30 PM at the Parc Sans Souci.

Forum for Equality extends its sympathy to the families and friends of the 50 dead, 53 injured, and the nearly 200 more who lived through this horror at the Pulse Club in Orlando, Florida. Further, the Forum for Equality calls on anti-LGBT religious and political leaders to recognize that whenever they demonize or attempt to marginalize the LGBT community, they provide extremists with a green light to violence.

For decades, LGBT nightclubs and bars have been safe refuges for our community, which makes the Orlando shooting even more frightening for the LGBT community here in Louisiana, the U.S., and across the world.

We will continue to work toward inclusive policies that protect and embrace LGBT people, and we will strive to keep the focus of the ensuing dialogue surrounding the attack on amplifying our voices through political action.

Forum for Equality urges members of the LGBT community who are affected by this tragedy – both directly and indirectly – to speak to friends and loved ones and to seek help if needed:

Crisis Intervention Center help line (for Louisiana residents): 225-924-3900
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

Equality Florida’s Donation Page to Support Victims and Recovery Efforts

With love,


SarahJane Brady
Executive Director
Forum For Equality
4035 Washington Ave
New Orleans, Louisiana 70125


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Pride in Louisiana

Louisiana Rainbow HeartJune is LGBT Pride month. We are excited for the many events that are taking place around our state the next two weeks to celebrate our community. Join in on the fun!

Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge Pride – Saturday, June 11, 1:00 to 7:00 pm – Come to the Baton Rouge River Center Exhibition Hall for a full day of live entertainment, resource fair, raffles and more! For the first time, Governor John Bel Edwards issued a Proclamation declaring June 11th LGBT Pride Day in honor of the 10th Annual Baton Rouge Pride.

5th Annual Louisiana Equality March – Saturday, June 11, 7:00 pm – March from Baton Rouge Pride Fest at the River Center to our state Capitol for a rally on the steps!

New Orleans

Family Equality Day – Sunday, June 12, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm – Pack a picnic basket and join Longue Vue House and Gardens for its first Family Equality Day celebrating the LGBT parenting and family community. All guests will enjoy a performance by the New Orleans Gay Men’s Chorus and complimentary snowballs. Free with online RSVP.

Business Pride – Thursday, June 16, 5:30 to 8:00 pm – Another great networking event at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. Join the Gulf South Chamber, our corporate sponsors, local LGBT businesses and professionals for food, drink, networking, and lots of fun!

24th Annual HRC Louisiana Dinner – Saturday, June 18, 6:00 pm – Join more than 500 LGBT people and straight allies at the 2016 HRC Louisiana Dinner in New Orleans. This year they will be honoring Arthur Roger with the 2016 HRC Louisiana Equality Award.
New Orleans Pride Weekend – June 17 through June 19 – New Orleans Pride Festival is composed of a weekend of events that are centered around the LGBT Community of New Orleans and its allies.


PACE Pride in the Park – Saturday, June 18, 11:00 am to 2:00 pm – The goal of Pride in the Park is to kick off a celebration of the vibrant LGBT community in Northwest Louisiana. It is free and open to the public with yoga, games, food, raffles, t-shirt contest, dog show competition and after-park parties around the community.

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Protecting Trans Youth!

This past Friday, the US Department of Justice issued a policy letter on transgender students and school life. The guide addresses such topics as name and pronoun use, confidentiality, harassment, participation in sports and the application of dress codes. It is implemented in all K-12 schools, preschools, colleges and universities that receive federal funding.

There was immediate opposition here in Louisiana from many of the forces that stand arrayed against equality and justice for all. Transgender youth are already at a greater risk of experiencing bullying, harassment, and even violence in schools. And statements issued by BESE President Jim Garvey and the 32 Louisiana legislators exacerbates those risks by creating a hostile environment in one of the places they should feel the safest.

We appeal to the leaders and people of Louisiana to respect the equal dignity of all people, including those apart of our transgender community.

The truth is it is already illegal for anyone to go to a bathroom to harm someone or to invade their privacy. Transgender people face hostility, harassment and bullying as a result of baseless inflammatory allegations; these barriers explain in part the extraordinarily high attempted suicide rate.

Schools should be a safe space for students to learn. Instead of ostracizing or bullying students because of their differences, we should be providing a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students to reach their potential. The guidance from the Department of Justice will go a long way to making sure they can.

With Equality,


SarahJane Brady
Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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Success in the Senate!

In a vote of 2 to 1, the Senate Judiciary B committee voted to move the Louisiana Non-Discrimination Act forward. With this success today, we must and will continue to push forward.

Discrimination is not a Louisiana value and we are proud that the committee agrees that Louisiana law must forbid all forms of discrimination.


Senator JP Morrell is a vanguard and champion for equality. We thank him for authoring the Louisiana Non-Discrimination Act, and appreciate his continued leadership on behalf of the LGBT community statewide.

Next up, the bill heads for a vote before the full Senate. Stay tuned, we will keep you updated!

With Equality,


SarahJane Brady
Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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