Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz Named 2019 Winners of
OLOC’s Del Martin Old Lesbian Pride Award
Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House, directed by three-time Oscar nominee Deborah Dickson, is much more than a coming out story. Set deep in working-class Jewish Brooklyn, New York, this hour-long vérité documentary follows two very funny, rather traditional housewives who turn their lives upside down. First, like so many young women in the 1950s, they get married. Then, like so many young women in the 1960s and 1970s, they get divorced. Unlike most, however, they both leave their husbands for another woman: each other. For Connie, it’s liberating. For Ruthie, it’s wrenching. The journey that follows leaves them changed forever—and turns them both into national heroines. The film won six best documentary awards its first year. It has been updated and is still shown today.Read more about Ruthie and Connie
Ruthie, 1934, and Connie, 1936-2018, went on to become spokeswomen for LGBT rights, sharing their story on national television and other media, including The Donohue Show, Geraldo Rivera, Bill Boggs, and WBAI. It was the first time many North Americans had seen an out Lesbian couple.
They were the first same-sex couple in the United States to successfully sue an employer for domestic partner benefits. Their landmark case against the New York City Board of Education led to the extension of health and dental benefits to the domestic partners of all New York City employees.
Among their multitudinous other activities, Ruthie and Connie started a branch of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in Florida and served as Co-Chairs of the New York State NOW Lesbian Rights Task Force.
After retiring to Florida, they were very active in Democratic, LGBT, feminist, and #BlackLivesMatter politics, which Ruthie continues to carry on. Both were certified counselors and they founded The Answer is Loving Counseling Center in West Palm Beach. They facilitated countless consciousness-raising workshops over decades for colleges, women’s groups, NOW, progressive straight groups, and more.
They were married on July 26, 2011, in New York, two days after the state legalized same-sex marriage.
Just a few of their many awards include:
- Several proclamations from New York City
- The first New York City NOW Susan B. Anthony Award
- The first Annual Lesbian Pride Award from Brooklyn NOW
- Lambda Democrats of Brooklyn Peter Vogel Award
- Named as Marshalls for the first Marriage Equality entrance in the New York City Gay Pride Parade and for the first Palm Beach County Lesbian Pride Parade
- National PFLAG American Family Award
- Rodeph Shalom Award from Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (New York City LGBT synagogue)
- SAGE Pioneer Award
- Rusty Gordan LGBT Democratic Caucus Activist Award
- Named by South Florida Gay News as one of ten LGBT Gay Activists
- Equality Florida’s Voice for Equality Award
They represented OLOC at the Congressional LGBT Caucus in Washington, DC, in 2016, and starting that same year, the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elders Law was introduced in the House in Congress. Following Connie’s death, one woman posted on her obituary page:
Connie fought for what was right because she knew that she and Ruthie deserved to have everything they wanted… each other. Their story and the example they put forth has been a beautiful inspiration, encouragement to keep fighting even when tired, and an example of what we all want … what we deserve. Together, Ruthie and Connie unapologetically stood for each other, for themselves, and for all of us. The progress the LGBT community has made could only be possible because of the fights they have fought.
One OLOC member stated, “Ruthie is a Lesbian, Jewish, widowed mensch. Glad I am walking the earth in her lifetime. Connie, her great love, has died, and Ruthie keeps walking, talking, and marching for her memory and for all of us.”
OLOC Mission Statement
To eliminate the oppression of ageism and to stand in solidarity against all oppressions.
OLOC Vision Statement
OLOC will be a cooperative community of Old Lesbian feminist activists from many backgrounds working for justice and the well-being of all Old Lesbians.
OLOC in Action
WHO WE ARE
We are a national network of Old Lesbians in our 60th year or older working to confront ageism in our communities and our country. We use education and public discourse as our primary tools.
Our national organization is directed by a Steering Committee that works to form and support local groups who will work in their own communities.
We hold biennial National Gatherings allowing us to come together to share experiences and ideas and recharge our energies for the tasks at hand.
We believe that we have a great deal of wisdom, experience and strength to share with our communities as well as among ourselves.
Everyone will have her older life made better by the work we do.
We are dedicated to preserving and enhancing the Lesbian voice as well as increasing Lesbian visibility in a world that stifles it and threatens to erase it.
OLOC works for change by supporting:
- comprehensive immigration reform
- elimination of violence against women
- enactment of universal single-payer healthcare for all
- an end to corporate “personhood”
- an end to any curtailment of voting rights
- the Black Lives Matter movement
- the Say Her Name! movement
- the civil rights of all indigenous people