The record number of openly-gay Congressional candidates elected two weeks ago “should be a wake-up call, on a number of levels, that the real America can be found in lots of places,” says National Public Radio’s Michel Martin.

A self-described “married, heterosexual, Christian mother,” Martin, 53, an African American, routinely addresses gay issues, as well as those of other minorities, on “Tell Me More,” the daily news-talk show she launched in 2007.

The struggle for gay equality “is one of the most important civil rights movements of our time,” says Martin, who last week received the first Randy Shilts Award for LGBT Coverage, sponsored by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. (Full disclosure: I am a long-time member of NLGJA.)

Gay rights “is also one of the most important human rights stories of our time,” Martin adds. “I don’t understand why we wouldn’t do those stories.”

“Tell Me More” has done in-depth looks at topics ranging from gay people of faith to gays in prison to transsexual athletes. Martin’s mission, she says, is to present a diversity of perspectives within the LGBT community. “There is no one gay opinion, just like there’s no one black opinion or one Latino opinion.”

The Shilts Award was named in memory of pioneering San Francisco journalist Randy Shilts. The first reporter to cover a ‘gay beat’ for a major metro daily, he wrote three best-sellers, including the groundbreaking ‘And the Band Played On,’ about the AIDS crisis.

Martin was chosen as the inaugural recipient “because she goes out of her way to tell our stories, and she teaches us about aspects of our own community,” says Matthew E. Berger, co-chair of the Washington, D.C., event. “That’s unique for an ally.” Read more