Aqua Foundation for Women on Friday evening presented Aqua Ally Awards to two Miami-Dade residents who've figured prominently in the gay rights movement: attorney/activist Patricia Ireland, national president of NOW (National Organization for Women) in the 1990s; and ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon, who led the group as it successfully fought the state's gay adoption ban.
Women and men filled a suite in Bacardi's Coral Gables headquarters for the event. The liquor company hosted Aqua Foundation and provided refreshments. CBS 4 News weatherman David Bernard emceed the ceremony.
Under Simon's leadership, the ACLU of Florida represented gay foster father Martin Gill, who fought the state to adopt his two sons. Gill and the boys attended Friday's party.
The ACLU also worked against the state's 2008 Amendment 2, which banned same-sex couples from marrying or forming state-recognized domestic partnerships.
And in 2010, the group sued Miami Beach after gay tourist Harold Strickland reported being wrongfully arrested and abused by police near Flamingo Park.
As a longtime activist, Ireland is known nationally as one of America's leading feminists. From NOW's website:
NOW President Patricia Ireland led the largest, most visible and most successful feminist organization in the United States for 10 years, from 1991-2001. Ireland's major contributions included organizing NOW activists to: defend women's access to abortion, elect a record number of women to political office, work more closely in coalitions with other social justice and civil rights groups and champion international feminist issues. ...
Ireland forged stronger links with: welfare and poor women's rights activists; nationally-known civil rights leaders; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups. As part of NOW's work with the Up and Out of Poverty Now! coalition, Ireland delivered testimony and organized lobby days, news briefings and protests on behalf of poor women. She served on the board of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and, in 1993, was a co-convener and keynote speaker for the 30th anniversary march on Washington commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Her efforts on behalf of lesbian and gay rights have included: organizing activists to fight punitive ballot initiatives around the country; getting arrested at the White House over the continued ban on gays and lesbians in the military; and serving as a speaker and major organizer for the 1993 March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian and Bi Civil Rights.
In late 1991, Ireland told The Advocate she had husband (since 1968) in South Florida and a female partner in Washington, D.C., and that she commuted to spend time with both.
From a 1992 New York Times profile:
Ireland says she hopes the discussion of her personal life will dispel the myth that most Americans live in traditional families. "There's still this concept of Mom, Dad, Dick, Jane, Spot, Puff," she says. "But there are really all kinds of arrangements people make in their lives."
Ireland told The Times that she gave the Advocate interview because the magazine had threatened to out her. She also "declined to label herself either a lesbian or bisexual."
Click the photos to view a gallery from Friday night's event. Photos by STEVE ROTHAUS / Miami Herald Staff.