Jody Huckaby PFLAGWith the theme “We Are The Change” and its ongoing efforts to support and unite LGBTQ individuals with parents, families, friends and allies, PFLAG is hosting its 2015 National Convention in Nashville Oct. 16-18.

Sessions will cover a variety of topics, including:

  • Advocacy for LGBTQ youth in foster care.
  • Expanding ethnic and racial diversity in PFLAG chapters.
  • Tools and tips to boost PFLAG chapter leaders.
  • Working with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community centers.
  • Assisting public schools as they accommodate transgender students.
  • Outreach to parents of LGBT children in the Catholic community.
  • Options for HIV prevention and changes in HIV treatment.
  • Understanding transgender matters.
  • Using social media to expand PFLAG chapter presence.
  • Fostering an inclusive vision of religious liberty.
  • Developing a meaningful speakers bureau.

The event is also a platform for presenting awards to individuals making a difference from within PFLAG and beyond. Earlier this year, the organization held its Straight for Equality Gala to honor allies or organizations that have had a positive impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Marriott International Inc. received the Straight for Equality in the Workplace Award. The global hospitality company has consistently earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, is a prominent member of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and was among the first hotel leaders to offer same-sex partner benefits, beginning in 1999. In 2012, Marriott launched the “Be You, With Us” campaign, and in 2014, it launched the award-winning #LoveTravels campaign. Jim Brett, CEO of West Elm of Williams Sonoma Inc., presented the award to Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson. Brett is the first openly gay CEO to present the award.

“At Marriott, we will continue to do our part to promote a vibrant economy where each individual is able to reach his or her highest potential without the barriers of discrimination,” Sorenson told the audience. “We will do that by putting people first — whether in Haiti or Harlem, India or Indianapolis — wherever we put out our welcome to you.”

PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby discussed other ways in which the company has served as an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. “Marriott has been a leader in championing basic fairness for all, including LGBTQ employment nondiscrimination,” he said. “It stood with PFLAGers in opposing Arizona’s hurtful anti-LGBTQ legislation and is a vocal supporter and advocate for marriage equality. We are proud to honor our longtime partners and supporters at Marriott.”

The Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award was given to Jill Soloway, creator of Amazon Studios’ show “Transparent,” along with a writer and producer for the HBO series “Six Feet Under.” She is known for creating LGBTQ characters that help viewers understand the intricacies of family, sexuality and gender. The award was presented to Soloway by Allyson Robinson, a human rights activist who has worked for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

The Straight for Equality in Sports Award went to Henrik Lundqvist, goaltender for the New York Rangers and a vocal, straight ally in the sports world. He has made headlines for his advocacy efforts on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and marriage equality. Lundqvist supports the National Hockey League’s partnership with You Can Play, a nonprofit dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in sports. He also worked with PFLAG National partner USA Network of NBCUniversal Inc. to create his own “I Won’t Stand For” video to combat bullying in schools. The award was presented to him by former Major League Baseball player Billy Bean, who is openly gay and now serves as the MLB Ambassador for Inclusion.