Local man nominated for Subaru/Advocate leadership award

 A Pittsburgh man has been named one of 10 national finalists for the 2003 Subaru Rainbow Leadership Award. The award is given annually by Subaru in conjunction with the national gay and lesbian newsmagazine The Advocate to honor individuals and/or organizations that have had a positive impact on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities through dedicated work and leadership.

        Matthew Ometz of Morningside was nominated for his legal advocacy work on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities and people living with HIV and AIDS. Through his company, Matthew E. Ometz Professional Services, Ometz refers individuals in Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania to attorneys and legal and advocacy services that are committed to offering their services pro bono or at reduced fees.

        Ometz also is an active volunteer with several local gay organizations, including the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force and Shepherd Wellness Community. Ometz served as co-chair of the Southwestern Pennsylvania AIDS Planning Coalition’s Consumer Advisory Board from 1999 to 2001 and remains a member of its board of directors. He also is a member of the coalition’s Supportive Services Committee and is an adviser to PATF’s Consumer Advisory Board.

        Ometz was the first openly gay man to be named president of the city of Pittsburgh’s Citizens Police Academy Class of 2002 and received the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Pro Bono Paralegal Achievement Award in 2000.

        PATF honored Ometz as its Outstanding Volunteer for 2002 for his commitment to the agency and to people with HIV and AIDS.

        “Matt brings great passion and commitment to his work at the task force,” said Kathy Eller, director of programs at PATF. “I’ve known him for almost eight years, and I’m still impressed by the compassion he shows for our clients and by the amount of time he spends with them to make sure they have equal access to legal services.”

        Subaru’s Rainbow Leadership Award was introduced in 1996 by Martina Navratilova, Nancy Becker and Pam Derderian, the cofounders of the Rainbow Card program. The winner of the 2003 award will receive $10,000.

        Ometz said the award would enable him to expand the scope of his legal advocacy services and allow him to offer legal representation to any gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individual with a life-threatening illness.

        Previous winners of the award include the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network; the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Mautner Project for Lesbians With Cancer and gay rights activist Urvashi Vaid. The 2002 recipient was the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

        In addition to Ometz, this year’s nominees includethe Walt Whitman Community School in Dallas; Roanoke 7 Inc. of Virginia; Ken Rich, executive director of Pets Are Loving Support in Atlanta; The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights; the Greater Seattle Business Association; Gay/Straight Youth Pride and Diverse and Resilient Inc. of Wisconsin.

        The award will be given to the nominee who receives the most votes nationwide. To review a list of the nominees and cast a vote, visit the Web site at www.advocate.com/rainbowcard/rainbowcard_ballot.asp. Voting ends May 31.