Photos: HRC National Dinner
Security was tight. Walking into D.C.’s mega-huge Convention Center at noon-thirty on Saturday to drop off equipment, we were led through a maze of drapery to a media bullpen of the Human Rights Campaign’s National Dinner. Cyndi Lauper’s sound check was taking place (gasp!) . In just a few hours, a sold-out crowd of 3,000 would jam pack the massive space.
Returning in the afternoon, walking through airport-style security setup by the Secret Service, we’re scanned and briefed on who would be at the evening’s event. Just to name a few – Ben Cohen, the straight UK rugby player that started his own anti-LGBT bullying foundation; Jesse Tyler Ferguson – the cute bearded ginger of Modern Family; NYC Mayor Michael Bloomburg; Ellen’s mom Betty DeGeneres; and the reason for heightened security – President Obama.
We’re led to a roped-off staged area for red-carpet arrivals where there were definitely a few starlets that had walked a carpet or two in their day. As Cyndi Lauper walked arm-in-arm with HRC’s outgoing president Joe Solmonese, she stopped and looked cheeky for the cameras. She was noticeably already enjoying her evening.
Wrestler Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally – an organization devoted to eliminating homophobia in professional sports, stepped out with wife Lia Alexandra Mandaglio. Together – a flawless couple.
Then, the big surprise for the evening arrived with Mayor Bloomberg – Sarah Jessica Parker. Although petite, SPJ had a radiant and graceful presence – wearing a sophisticated black dress, she glowed.
Take a look at more from the red carpet.
Opening the dinner, teen recording artist and bluesy vocalist Greyson Chance (signed under Ellen’s label) performed a mashup of Depeche Mode’s “People Are People” and his single “Purple Sky.”
Ferguson started the show and a video reel highlighted campaign accomplishments over the past year - the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; their On The Road To Equality bus tour; and New Yorkers for Marriage Equality (which doubled the number of citizens in the U.S. with the right to marry a same-sex partner).
HRC president Solmonese introduced President Obama with points of reference including DADT, his executive order for partner hospital visitation, and federal courts no longer upholding the Defense of Marriage Act.
“No president has done more to improve the lives of LGBT individuals than Barack Obama,” Solmonese said.
The house lights rose and so did the crowd. Obama joked about a visit last week.
“I took a trip to California and held bilateral talks with your leader – Lady Gaga. She was wearing 16-inch heals and was nearly 8 feet tall. Intimidating,” he said.
Some LGBT advocates in the blogosphere expected Obama to clarify the evolution of his view on marriage equality – while alluding to the importance of all rights, he did not make a definitive statement.
“Every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and the eyes of our society,” Obama said. He told the crowd government has a ways to go, but the LGBT community should be proud of the progress made.
“A hate crimes bill – we got it done. You should never have to look over your shoulder to be gay in the United States of America.”
He warned that there are plenty of people that want to turn the clock back and enshrine hate in the Constitution. Also, noting current events, he affirmed his commitment to continuing a dialogue in the White House about bullying and sending a message to youth that he and the First Lady are with them every inch of the way.
On point throughout, he shifted focus to his American Jobs Act and it resonated as a campaign speech. None-the-less, he was on his game.
After the President’s speech and a dinner break, the program continued with Sarah Jessica Parker introducing Mayor Bloomberg as the recipient of HRC’s Ally Award for his work on New York marriage equality.
“Near equality is not equality,” Bloomberg said.
He said marriage equality is consistent with conservative principles of limited government.
“Conservatives believe that government should not stand in the way of free markets and private associations — including contracts between consenting parties,” he said.
U.S. Representative and Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin took the stage with loud cheers of support from the crowd. The out lesbian from Wisconsin said she understands life in a moderate state and what it means to work for middle-class America. ”The things that unite us far outweigh those that separate us.”
The evening also served as a farewell to Solmonese who has served as HRC president since 2005. Lauper performed a set dedicated to the outgoing leader and shared stories of their friendship.
The evening concluded with an after party featuring a concert by Mika. Take a look at the performances and some of Washington, D.C.’s best dressed below.
Photos by Andrew Cothern.
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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