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San Diego Pride names recipients of awards to be bestowed on July 15

SAN DIEGO – Several individuals and groups will be honored during San Diego Pride weekend for their activism and support given to the LGBT community.

The honorees will be publicly recognized at Pride’s Spirit of Stonewall Rally, scheduled for 6:30 pm Friday, July 15, at the main festival stage at Marston Point in Balboa Park.

The rally marks the official kickoff to San Diego Pride’s annual celebration, which features a mile-long parade on July 16 and a two-day festival with headline entertainment in the park on July 16 and 17. For updated details, visit the website. Here are the award-winners:

CHAMPIONS OF PRIDE

Larry Baza

Arts administrator Larry Baza brings to the community a long history of political activism that began when he became involved with the Chicano and anti-Vietnam War movements, as well as joining the former Gay Liberation Front in its fight against California’s 1978 Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbian from working in public schools. He would later produce Arts for AIDS Assistance, the first major AIDS fundraiser in the country that involved 20 arts organizations.

Baza was among the first people of color to serve as co-chair for San Diego LGBT Pride and was the first openly gay man to serve on the board of the Chicano Federation. He currently sits on the board of the San Diego Democratic Club, for which he served two years as president, in addition to Honor PAC (the first statewide Latino LGBT political action committee) and the Latino Services Advisory Council of the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

With his partner of 27 years, Tom Noel, he owns Noel-Baza Art Gallery in Little Italy and was recently appointed to serve on the San Diego Port Commission’s Public Art Committee.

R. Clarke Cooper

Appointed executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans last year, R. Clarke Cooper has been working with Republican members of Congress to advance LGBT equality. He recently spearheaded the Log Cabin Republicans’ national convention in Dallas, which ushered in the likes of Congressman Bob Bar, who Cooper says, “was once an adversary, but is now a firm champion of the fundamental right to marry.”

In an effort to energize LGBT Republicans over issues of equality, he has made it his frontline mission to ensure a resolute end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and help eliminate the domestic partner penalty, which “punishes” companies that provide health care benefits to the partners of their employees while also forcing gay and lesbian workers to pay higher income taxes than their heterosexual colleagues.

Under his leadership, he has helped raise money for the organization’s political action committee while helping to endorse pro-equality, LGBT-friendly GOP candidates across the country.

Cooper was a diplomat in the George W. Bush administration and served in combat in Iraq. He is currently a captain in the Army Reserve.

STONEWALL SERVICE AWARD

San Diego Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Since its formation in 2005, the San Diego Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have raised an average of $10,000 a year for various charities that extend to Mama’s Kitchen, the Human Dignity Foundation and The Center’s youth and women’s services programs.

“Last year we exceeded that goal,” said founding member Sister Hecate, who points out that the organization’s primary mission is “to promulgate universal joy and to expiate stigmatic guilt.”

Dressed always in their signature face paint and flowing nun raiment, the sisters appear at events a few times a month or can be seen cheerfully passing out condoms and educating people on safe sex in between fundraisers.

The group most recently organized an event at Redwing Bar & Grill to raise money for the Youth Housing Project and also hosted a wine and cupcake reception at Diversionary Theatre to benefit the St. Paul’s Cathedral Foundation.

The San Diego “house” is among dozens of chapters worldwide born from the original group that was founded in 1979 in San Francisco. Locally, the sisters maintain a website to keep the community informed on their charitable activities and growing convent.

FRIENDS OF THE YEAR

Ron and Linda Sanders

Retired elementary school teachers Ron and Linda Sanders have devoted their energies over the past several years to the San Diego chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), serving as active board members while providing consistent support to gay-straight alliances at public and private schools throughout San Diego.

Ron, who is an Eagle Scout, also became involved in 2003 with Scouting For All in an effort to promote LGBT tolerance within the Boy Scouts of America.

“It outraged me that not everybody had the same opportunities that I did,” he said.

In their work with GLSEN, the couple have brought visibility to the organization through fundraisers and high school health fairs, where they dispense information about laws pertaining to school bullying and other LGBT issues.

In addition, Linda was part of a collaborative effort to develop the “safe school policy” containing a specific clause for LGBT students. The policy was adopted by the San Diego Unified School District earlier this year.

COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD

Mary Stockton

Having served three years as board president for the Diversionary Theatre, and now co-president, Mary Stockton helped raise $300,000 for the installation of a wheelchair lift at the theater. During her tenure, Diversionary commissioned the highly successful runs of Patricia Loughrey's “Dear Harvey” and “The Daddy Machine.”

A financial services professional with New York Life and Stockton Financial and Insurance Services, Stockton’s community involvement extends also to The LGBT Community Center, for which she is a board member. For The Center’s Sunburst Youth Housing Project, she secured $25,000 from New York Life and nearly $6,000 from garage sales that she conducts annually with her wife, Alison McManus.

Additionally, she served two years on the board for Stepping Stone, where she became involved in providing recovery services for young, at-risk LGBT women.

SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD

Michael G. Portantino (1958-2010)

San Diego LGBT Pride will extend special recognition to the late Michael G. Portantino, the longtime publisher of the now defunct Gay & Lesbian Times and a diligent supporter of political and social issues aimed at benefiting the LGBT community.

As a weekly newspaper publisher, Portantino invigorated the community with political spirit and knowledge that incited activism, volunteerism and fundraising for such efforts as marriage equality, HIV/AIDS awareness and the elections of openly gay politicians. Among them was Sen. Christine Kehoe, whom he helped elect to the San Diego City Council before she took state office.

As a community volunteer, he contributed numerous hours delivering meals for Mama’s Kitchen and had donated more than $1 million of advertising to various community organizations, from the grassroots level to the well-established. He often opened his home in Normal Heights to host political receptions and charitable events while fulfilling the role of a devoted father for his daughter Tatiana Hughes.