LGBTQ advocates and special guests came together for the SAGE Awards and Gala, the evening of Oct. 21 at Gotham Hall. Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders reached half its fundraising goal of half a million dollars by the end of the night.
SAGE is a nationwide organization based out of New York that serves to improve the lives of older LGBT adults through helping to ensure their financial and physical wellness as well as a supportive community to members of the growing LGBTQ community of elders.
Special guests were Edith Windsor, plaintiff in the case United States vs. Windsor which ultimately lead to the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and award-winning playwright Terrence McNally.
Jewish Home Lifecare was presented the Aging Service Leadership Award for their top standards in elderly care and their current project, The Living Center, which will open in 2017, as the first elderly care center in the nation to have a special wing for LGBTQ residents.
Next honored was Chris Kann, who was presented the Ken Dawson Advocacy Award, hosts New York City’s annual Toys Party in conjunction with SAGE to raise funds and collect toys that will be sent to various children’s organizations.
The third honoree was Jay Lesiger, who was presented the Joyce Warshow Lifetime Achievement Award. He has worked with SAGE for more than 30 years and served on the Board of Directors.
“Nobody does what SAGE does, and now that we have so many amazing rights, [that] certainly as an older LGBT man I never dreamt we would have, SAGE is clearly at the forefront of this,” Lesiger said.
The final honoree was Roberta Kaplan, who was presented with the Paula Ettelbrick Community Service Award by Windsor herself for her work in United States vs. Windsor.
The presence of Windsor, who has been on the SAGE Board of Directors and received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” prior to her court appearance, created a unique energy at this year’s Gala.
“Edie’s been our hero for years, long before the Supreme Court case,” SAGE executive director Michael Adams said. “If you look around there is an incredible energy and buzz in the room.”
At NYU’s commencement ceremony in May 2012, Windsor was awarded the Presidential Medal for her influence and work in the gay rights movement. She received a graduate degree from NYU in 1957 and met her spouse, Thea, in Greenwich Village in 1963. Thea passed away in 2009.
“Thea would adore [the SAGE gala],” Windsor said. “I think she would love every single thing about it.”
Windsor said that students should be aware of the difficulties of LGBTQ elders, and many attendees said students should be learning more about the movement for elderly LGBTQ rights.
“I’m not sure that [LGBT] understanding and awareness extends to aging,” SAGE senior director of programs Catherine Thurston said. “LGBT people have the same challenges that all people have as they age, with an additional layer of what it means to be LGBT in this world.”
Steinhardt sophomore Joseph Aboud, who was at the event and is aware of the LGBTQ problems regarding the elderly, said students need to take note of the issue.
“I think the elderly community is one that’s forgotten about more often that not,” Aboud said. “To honor them and remember is important especially because [students are] going to be at that point at some point in [their] lives.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 22 print edition. Larson Binzer is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.