A Celebration of Courage: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, IBM to Receive Human Rights Awards

Congressman Tom Lantos to Receive Posthumous Award
For Immediate Release
Contact: Hossein Alizadeh, IGLHRC Communications Coordinator, 212-430-6016

(March 11, 2008, New York) The New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) announced today that it will present its 2008 OUTSPOKEN Award to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The award will be presented to the Archbishop as part of IGLHRC’s A Celebration of Courage human rights ceremony on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, with the exclusive film of Tutu’s address to be aired at the group’s event in New York on April 28.

IGLHRC is one of the premiere international human rights organizations dedicated to documenting and fighting against the range of human rights abuses faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and groups around the world. Since 1990, IGLHRC has played a critical role in drawing global attention to persistent human rights violations, such as police abuse and torture, arbitrary arrests, harassment, and discriminatory laws and treatment. IGLHRC works in partnership with local LGBTI groups so that they are equipped to build lasting change in their societies and greater justice around the world.

"There is really only one name in the world that immediately conjures up moral leadership in pursuit of dignity for all people on earth, and that is Desmond Tutu," said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s Executive Director. "Archbishop Tutu’s vision of a world in which human rights are respected has always explicitly included LGBT people, despite the fierce opposition he has faced from his peers and colleagues. He has challenged political apartheid in South Africa and continues to challenge spiritual apartheid within his religious community."

Archbishop Tutu became a leading moral voice in the crusade for justice and racial conciliation in South Africa. In 1984, he received a Nobel Peace Prize to recognize his extraordinary contributions to the struggle against apartheid. He was elected Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985, and promoted to Archbishop of Cape Town the following year. As Archbishop, he became a principal mediator and conciliator in the transition to democracy in South Africa. In 1995, President Nelson Mandela appointed him Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a body set up to probe gross human rights violations that occurred under apartheid.

Archbishop Tutu has vocally challenged discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In a 2004 article in The Times (London), he condemned persecution on the basis of sexual orientation, comparing it to apartheid. "We struggled against apartheid in South Africa, supported by people the world over, because black people were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about—our very skins," he wrote. "It is the same with sexual orientation. It is a given. I could not have fought against the discrimination of apartheid and not also fight against the discrimination that homosexuals endure, even in our churches and faith groups."

"Archbishop Tutu’s decision to address our community while in the United States signals the rise in status that LGBT communities around the world are achieving. This is a historic opportunity for LGBT people in the US to connect with a leader who plays a monumental role in world events," said Ettelbrick. "And, our community can play a key role in pushing our US leaders to take more responsible and ethical positions when it comes to human rights violations within our own country and around the world."

The IBM Corporation will receive IGLHRC’s special recognition award for its contributions to IGLHRC’s global mission of building a strong and viable LGBT human rights movement and for its leadership in promoting non-discrimination policies in all of its workplaces in the world. IBM has been particularly supportive of IGLHRC’s work in Latin America, sponsoring IGLHRC’s 2007 Human Rights Training Institute in Costa Rica, which was devoted to developing the advocacy capacity of lesbian and bisexual women in Central America.

In New York, on April 28 at the Asia Society and Museum, IGLHRC’s A Celebration of Courage event will broadcast film footage of Tutu’s historic address and present its 2008 Felipa de Souza Award to two outstanding nominees—the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) and Chilean trans activist Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte.

In addition, IGLHRC will present a posthumous OUTSPOKEN Award to Congressman Tom Lantos, the 14-term Congressman who lost his life to cancer on February 11, 2008. Congressman Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the United States Congress, was a life-long champion of human rights and a steadfast voice against injustices committed against LGBTI people not only in the United States, but abroad.

Grace Cathedral is home to one of the largest—and most inclusive—Episcopal congregations in the nation. It is well known in San Francisco for its commitment to social justice and providing a forum for civil discourse.

Ticket information is available at www.iglhrc.org.


The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or death because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists in countries around the world, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, engaging offending governments, and educating international human rights officials. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Johannesburg and Buenos Aires. Visit www.iglhrc.org for more information.