Lily Tomlin, the award-winning actor and comedienne, has been selected by the Ruth Ellis Center to receive its inaugural Ruth Ellis Legacy Award at its annual VOICES gala on Sept. 14 at the Sound Board, located in the MotorCity Casino Hotel. The award honors individuals who embody the spirit, grace and generosity of the organization’s namesake, an African-American lesbian who opened her home and heart to members of the LGBTQ community in Detroit as early as the 1930s. Ruth openly identified as lesbian in 1915, was the first woman to own her own printing company in the City of Detroit, and lived to the age of 101, seeing the Center come to being before her passing in 2000.
The VOICES Gala is Ruth Ellis’ signature event, which provides critical funding to the organization’s operations while also recognizing its many dedicated supporters. Incorporated in 1999, the Ruth Ellis Center works to build positive futures with LGBTQ young people experiencing barriers to housing, health, and wellness. Lear Corporation will serve as presenting sponsor of VOICES for the fifth year in a row, allowing the nonprofit to host 400 guests including community members, volunteers, staff, youth and sponsors.
“It is truly an honor to receive this extraordinary award, named after an even more extraordinary woman,” said Tomlin. “I’ve always believed, collectively, women have the power to change the world and Ruth Ellis was and continues to be, one of our greatest examples of that power. Ruth Ellis Center’s commitment to LGBTQ youth is inspiring, and I know Ruth would be proud.”
Born and raised in Detroit, Tomlin has cultivated an impressive television, film and standup resume that has won her numerous awards including seven Emmys, two Tonys, a Grammy, and the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also well known for her philanthropy, supporting causes such as civil rights, health care, women’s issues, AIDS awareness, combating homelessness and supporting the LGBTQ community in all aspects. She founded the LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center in Los Angeles and the Goosebump Garden at the Fenway Health Center in Boston where she continues to be involved. Tomlin has been with her partner, Jane Wagner, for more than 40 years, marrying in 2013.