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Phyllis Frye to Receive Stonewall Award from American Bar Association

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From Staff Reports

The American Bar Association Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity will honor Phyllis Randolph Frye, associate judge for the Municipal Courts in Houston, with its Stonewall Award during a ceremony on Feb. 3, 2018, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Named after the New York City Stonewall Inn police raid and riot of June 28, 1969, which was a turning point in the movement, the award recognizes lawyers who have considerably advanced LGBTQ individuals in the legal profession and successfully championed the community’s legal causes.

“Phyllis Frye has been instrumental in moving America’s queer community to include and embrace the hopes and aspirations of its transgender members,” said Mark Johnson Roberts, chair of the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

As Jennifer Levi, another Stonewall recipient, said: “Phyllis advocated for and spoke on behalf of the LGBTQ community at a time when there was no transgender visibility and when anti-transgender hostility was open and aggressive. In the face of adversity, Phyllis’ work was steadfast. She laid the groundwork and had the vision that is the foundation of today’s advocacy.”

Frye, an associate judge for the Municipal Courts in Houston, is the first openly trans judge in Texas. She is an Eagle Scout and was a member of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

Frye graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s  in civil engineering and an M.S. in mechanical engineering. She was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1972, transitioned in 1976 and earned her master’s and law degrees from the University of Houston.

In 1992, she convened the first International Conference on Transgender Law & Employment Policy in Houston. In 2010, Houston Mayor Annise Parker appointed Frye as an associate judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts, and the Houston City Council unanimously approved her appointment.

Frye retains her senior partnership with Frye, Oaks, Benavidez & O’Neil, PLLC, where she devotes her practice exclusively to taking transgender clients—both adults and minors—through the Texas courts to change the clients’ names and genders on their legal documents. In 2013, Frye was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Transgender Foundation of America.

The ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity leads the ABA’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and full and equal participation by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the ABA, the legal profession and society. Created in 2007, the commission seeks to secure equal treatment in the ABA, the legal profession and the justice system without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.

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