The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has announced its twelfth-a nnual Equality Dinner honorees. This year’s dinner will boast the theme “Everyday People, Everyday Families,” and the honorees are shining examples of this theme.

Marisa J. Richmond, Ph.D. is the recipient of this year’s Equality Award. Richmond is the president of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and serves on the executive committee of the board of directors of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) and chair of the TEP’s Public Policy Committee. Richmond also serves on the board of directors of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) as the congressional lobbying coordinator, and on the board of advisors of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). 

“It is nice to be recognized for my work on behalf of the rights of all LGBT people,” Richmond states in response to being selected this year.

The Community Leadership Award recipient this year is TEP president and founding board member, Christopher Sanders.  

Sanders received his Masters of Divinity at Vanderbilt University and is currently working as the director of development at St. Luke’s Community House, an Episcopal organization that serves the working poor of West Nashville. Previously, Sanders was president of the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce and is credited with taking the Nashville Association of Professional Persons (NAPP) from being a social/networking group to the respected chamber of commerce it is today.

"Two factors have really helped my work in the community – good advice and good support groups," Sanders says about the honor. "My mistakes are my own, but when I've listened to the advice of good people, I've made good decisions. The two support groups that really shape me are Episcopalians in the Diocese of Tennessee who keep me grounded in my faith, and the Nashville Grizzlies Rugby Football Club, who are some of the most loyal, encouraging men I've ever met." 

Nashville native Iris Buhl has been selected as this year’s Ally Award recipient. 

Buhl has been volunteering her time to Nashville CARES and other projects for over twenty years. Buhl has served on the boards of the University School of Nashville (USN), Planned Parenthood, and Nashville CARES. She was appointed by Mayor Bill Purcell to the Charitable Solicitations Board of Metropolitan Nashville, which she chaired for two years. She currently lives in Nashville with her husband of forty-one years, Mike Buhl.

“When I began volunteering with Nashville CARES," Iris explains, "I had no idea I knew any gay people except, of course, John Bridges. But whatever being gay meant, it could not possibly have been terrible enough to make my husband and me desert our son had he been desperately ill. So in I dived. As time passed and I became more familiar with what folks have to put up with simply to live as themselves, many GLBT issues have become my issues, too."

"In fact," Iris concludes, "it seems to me that as issues of privacy and equality, they should belong to everybody."

This year’s Equality Dinner will take place at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on March 31. The event will begin with cocktails and a silent auction at 6 p.m., which will be followed by dinner and the program beginning at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets for the event are $175 and can be purchased through or 1-800-494-TIXS.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national Lesbian and Gay political organization in the United States. 

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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