Madison's LGBT OutReach Center celebrates 40th anniversary - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Madison's LGBT OutReach Center celebrates 40th anniversary

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MADISON (WKOW)-- Madison's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community celebrated a milestone Friday night, the 40th anniversary of their outreach community center.

Every year hundreds of community members come together during their annual awards ceremony to recognize people who are advancing LGBT rights. This year the celebration was even more meaningful as they looked back on 40-years in the Madison area.

"We have a lot of people with the agency who have been with it since the 1970's. They've been able to kind of see how society has progressed over those past forty years and really the change is just very dramatic," OutReach Board President Ryan Petty says.

Members say 1973 was a very different time, when many in the gay community felt alone and afraid. Members say those feelings are still often present 40-years later.

"It makes an agency like ours vital to have a location where people can come and walk in the door and know that they are welcome and people aren't going to judge them for who they are," OutReach Vice President Roger Hansen says.

Members say they've accomplished many things over the years, but they're most proud of the services they provide to gay youth and their new program that helps homeless in the community.

"LGBT people are homeless at a higher rate than the general population, especially transgender people. Often times the mainstream services aren't available for them," OutReach Executive Director Steve Starkey says.

Over the last 40-years the center has changed locations, merged with other groups and even changed their name, but members say the message has always been the same. They hope to carry that message for another 40-years until their mission is complete.

"We're going to hit 50 and we're going to hit 60 and we're going to go beyond that before we truly have equality in this society," Hansen says.

During Friday night's 40th anniversary members gave out several awards. One in particular was the Courage Award which was given to U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. Members wanted to honor her for becoming the first openly gay or lesbian U.S. senator  in history.

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