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NYCLU Presents Its Annual Civil Liberties Awards

The New York Civil Liberties Union honored Tony and Emmy award winning playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America), attorney William F. Butler and others with its Lasker/Callaway Awards tonight. The NYCLU annual salute to individuals and institutions for their dedication to civil liberties issues took place at the Yale Club in mid-town Manhattan before a distinguished audience of guests and supporters.

“Now, more than ever, it is important that we honor those who take risks in calling our attention to the erosion of our civil liberties,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “It is exciting and important to acknowledge those who bring this message through various media: television, the stage, books and libraries.”

Kushner was joined by stage actress Sarah Jones (Bridge and Tunnel) in being honored with the Joseph Callaway Prize for the Defense of the Right to Privacy. Kushner’s groundbreaking play, Angels in America, focused the nation’s attention on the AIDS epidemic and the privacy concerns attendant to that illness. During the awards program, Kushner and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal performed an original routine depicting a fictional conversation with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It premiered October 4th at the ACLU’s Freedom Concert at Avery Fisher Hall.

Jones wrote and performed in her one-woman off-Broadway play Bridge and Tunnel that garnered much praise earlier this year. Jones’ hit play, scheduled to move to Broadway with actor Meryl Streep as a producer, was based on various interpretations of the American Dream and took the audience through the immigrant experience in the post-9/11 world. She recently enacted a moving performance art portrayal, also at the ACLU Freedom Concert, where she used her art to draw attention to the dangerous expansion of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Attorney William F. Butler, a founding member of the NYCLU on whose board he has served, was honored for his long-time civil rights contributions with the Florina Lasker Civil Liberties Award. Former NYCLU and ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser presented Butler with his award. Butler is a tireless civil liberties advocate who also served as staff counsel to the ACLU and represented the organization in the ground-breaking U.S. Supreme Court decision on school prayer (Engel v. Vitale).

In addition, the NYCLU honored the American Library Association with a Special Recognition Award for its strong and public stance against the excesses of the USA PATRIOT Act. NYCLU Board President Claudia Angelos made the presentation to Dr. James Neal who accepted on behalf of the ALA. Dr. Neal is Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian for Columbia University.

The Florina Lasker Civil Liberties Award has been presented annually by the NYCLU since 1957; the Joseph Callaway Prize has been presented annually since 1992.

The program is a benefit fundraiser for the NYCLU

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