COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Stonewall Columbus and city leaders are illuminating City Hall on Monday in celebration of Pride Month, the month-long celebration recognized each June honoring the LGBTQ+ community.

The illuminations begins at dusk on Monday when Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and City Council President Shannon Hardin are presenting the Steven Shellabarger Illuminator Award to Chris Cozad. The award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated an “outstanding initiative to promote LGBTQ+ rights and, in doing so, has created a more inclusive Columbus.”

Chris Cozad, recipient of 2023’s Steven Shellabarger Illuminator Award. (Courtesy Photo/Columbus City Council)

Cozad has been advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community since the early 1980s, when she worked with Urban League and the Anti-Defamation League to pass the City of Columbus Hate Crimes ordinance after an incident of anti-lesbian violence in Columbus.

She has also served on the board for several community organizations, including Stonewall Columbus, the Lesbian Business Association, Lesbians Benefitting the Arts, and The Ohio Lesbian Festival. The chair for the city’s Pride march in the late 1980s to the 90s, Pride moved from the Statehouse lawn to Bicentennial Park for the very first festival under her leadership.

Cozad currently serves as LGBTQ community liaison to Columbus Mayor Ginther and is the president of Alternative Auto Care, an independent auto repair facility, serving Columbus since 1983. She is also a retired adjunct instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbus State Community College.

Last year’s winner was Siobhan Boyd-Nelson, the deputy director for Equality Ohio since 2018. At Kaleidoscope Youth Center, Boyd-Nelson served as the development and marketing manager before moving to Stonewall Columbus where she led the community center’s capital campaign.

Pride Month remembers the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, a series of conflicts between police and LGBTQ+ protesters that stretched over six days. Today, Pride commemorates the Stonewall protesters with parades, festivals, memorials and more. 

Find a central Ohio city or town celebrating Pride with a festival or march near you here.

Stonewall Columbus kicked off its celebrations with the annual Pride Brunch at the Columbus Athenaeum on Sunday. The brunch honored the organization’s donors and sponsors while offering a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community.

Stonewall’s own Pride festival begins at 4 p.m. on June 16 at Goodale Park and runs until 10 p.m. with food, more than 200 vendors, nonprofit organizations, community resources, and live entertainment. The celebration continues at 10:30 a.m. on June 17 with a march at Broad and High streets.

While the city’s first Pride march happened in 1981 with just 200 people, the Stonewall Columbus Pride welcomes more than 700,000 visitors annually.