"These winners have shown extraordinary commitment to preserving the First Amendment rights of all Americans," said Christie Hefner, chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises Inc. "Their example is an inspiration to everyone who cares about the fundamental civil rights on which our democracy is based."
Heather Gillman, 17, now a high school senior in Ponce de Leon, Fla., received a $10,000 award for speaking out on behalf of the rights of gay students. Gillman successfully sued the local school board after her high school principal banned students from wearing T-shirts, stickers, buttons or symbols showing support of equal rights for gay students.
Mark Klein, of Alameda, Calif., a retired AT&T technician, received a $10,000 award for speaking out against the National Security Agency's covert, illegal computer spying operation, which used AT&T to secretly intercept billions of private Internet communications sent and received by Americans.
Greg Lukianoff, New York-based attorney and president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, received the new $25,000 Freedom of Expression Award in recognition of his efforts to defend First Amendment rights of students and faculty on college campuses across the U.S.
This year, the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards were selected from 60 nominees representing traditional and digital means of expression, including law professors, website creators and student journalists.
The judging panel was David M. Rubin, Professor and former Dean of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University; Geoffrey Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at University of Chicago Law School; and Nadine Strossen, outgoing President of the American Civil Liberties Union and Professor of Law at New York Law School.
Playboy CEO Christie Hefner created the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards in 1979 to honor individuals who have "contributed significantly to the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans." More than 125 advocates for First Amendment freedoms have been recognized with the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards.
The Playboy Foundation supports local and national nonprofit organizations that protect the rights of the individual in a free society. Since its inception in 1965, the foundation has awarded nearly $20 million in grants and in-kind contributions to organizations concerned with First Amendment freedoms, civil liberties and social justice.