© Hugh M. Hefner Foundation 2019
  • Instagram - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle

Washington, DC – (May 16, 2019) – The growing threat to the First Amendment was in the spotlight Wednesday night as Members of Congress, journalists, and prominent members of the Washington community joined The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation at the annual First Amendment Awards. Some of the year’s most noteworthy free speech battles were showcased and seven individuals were honored for their commitment to upholding First Amendment rights for all Americans.

As she welcomed the 2019 honorees to the stage, Founder and Chairman of the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation, Christie Hefner said, “The rights afforded to us by the First Amendment are truly remarkable. However, in an abundance of opportunity to speak and be heard, challenges to free speech still exist today. Almost every week we see the voices of students censored on campus, newsrooms and journalists under threat of physical assault, and the value of truth a victim of those waging partisan attacks. Now more than ever we should honor those who stand up for our First Amendment rights. We are proud to recognize and celebrate our 2019 honorees.”

Honorees were introduced to the crowd by the 2019 panel of judges including Karen Tumulty, columnist and former national political correspondent for The Washington Post; Neal Katyal, the Paul and Patrician Saunders Professor of Law at Georgetown University and Partner at Hogan Lovells; and Michael B. Keegan, president of People for the American Way.

“This year’s winners are both an inspiration and a reminder that this freedom, which the framers of the Constitution enshrined at the very top of the Bill of Rights, endures only because people are willing to stand up for it,” said Karen Tumulty as she congratulated this year’s honorees.

The 2019 honorees include:

  • Law: Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and global Co-Chair of the firm's Litigation Group, for his work on behalf of CNN and Jim Acosta in connection with the restoration of Acosta's White House press credentials.

  • Government: Dr. George Luber, Former Chief of the Climate and Health Program in the Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice at the National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After the 2016 election, Dr. Luber was directed to cancel a conference on climate change with Al Gore; he refused on the basis of science education and was outspoken on the issue. The CDC sent Dr. Luber home on administrative leave. After taking a public stand, the CDC withdrew Dr. Luber's proposed termination.

  • Book Publishing: Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO, FIRE, & Jonathan Haidt, Social Psychologist, NYU's Stern School of Business, for their book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.

  • Journalism: Grace Marion, former Editor-In-Chief of her high school newspaper, The Playwickian, for her fight against school censorship after she saw about a dozen articles censored. Grace was able to publish her final jaw-dropping article during her last year at the school, which outed the school for the lack of sexual misconduct records for its teachers.

  • Education: Christian Bales, an openly gay and gender non-conforming student, who was not allowed to deliver his Valedictorian commencement speech at his Catholic high school's graduation ceremony. Christian decided to deliver his speech with a bullhorn following the graduation ceremony surrounded by students and faculty.

  • Lifetime Achievement: Floyd Abrams, Senior Counsel, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, for his lifelong devotion to Constitutional law. Abrams has argued numerous significant First Amendment cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. Many arguments he has made orally and in his briefs to the Court have been adopted by it as binding precedent protecting freedom of speech and the press from infringement by the government.


Since 1979, the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation’s First Amendment Awards have recognized individuals whose efforts help protect and enhance First Amendment rights for all Americans and to raise awareness of modern-day challenges to freedom of speech and expression.




About the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation:

The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation was established to work on behalf of individual rights in a democratic society.  The primary focus of the foundation is to support organizations that advocate for and defend civil rights and civil liberties with special emphasis on First Amendment rights and rational sex and drug policies.



Amanda Warren, Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards



Rachael Parry, Story Partners