Human Rights Campaign Gala 2011
By: Brandy Black
The Human Rights Campaign Gala was another smashing hit this year! Held at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Los Angeles, the stars were hard to spot among the many beautiful guests that were in attendance. Tears were shed as we celebrated the huge steps that the HRC campaign has been making towards equal rights for all.
I got the chance to speak with the fabulous Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family before the event began.
Brandy: How has it impacted you playing the first gay dad on a major network television show?
Jesse: It’s a huge honor. I don’t take the job lightly, the social ramifications of a role like that of Cameron and Mitchell are huge so we take it very seriously. I’m encouraged daily by people who come up to me and say “thank you for representing my family on TV” or “thank you for changing the mind of someone I care about” or “thank you for changing my mind.” So it’s awesome. I think television is a very powerful medium and I think it makes certain things safe and I think we’ve made certain gay couples safe in a lot of homes and maybe it wasn’t so and if it’s ok for Cameron and Mitchell to raise a baby and live their lives and get married, maybe it’s ok for Bob and Joe down the street…so I think it’s really encouraging.
Brandy: Do you feel a responsibility as a celebrity to speak out for certain causes?
Jesse: I speak out for causes that I feel passionate about; I accept the responsibility. I certainly never set out to be a poster child for everything but I’m certainly more than happy to add my voice to a group. I’m just an actor. I didn’t even go to college. I’m not the smartest cookie in the drawer…how about that? I combined three: (1) smartest (2) cookie in the (3) drawer. I certainly don’t want to be the band leader for anything but I want to be in the band for sure.
Brandy: Are you similar to your character?
Jesse: Mitchell is way more serious than I am…but like he, I have a passion for life. I have family values and I would certainly love to have an adorable little daughter some day, too.
Jesse was one of the opening speakers for the HRC Gala.
“I am so proud to be an openly gay actor in Hollywood and that goes for all 7 of us. The change is happening and it’s getting better all the time.”
The fabulous Chelsea Montgomery Duban introduced her “new gay uncle- guncle” Joe Solmonese to the stage. Chelsea is best known for speaking out and supporting her gay dads. I did a two-part series on her family last year after the 2010 HRC Awards.
The HRC announced its newest LGBT initiative called Welcoming Schools in which they strive to build a school community where all students are welcome and respected. The speakers celebrated the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the many people on the Human Rights Campaign that helped to make this happen. The President of the HRC, Joe Solmonese, gave an inspiring speech and thanked the many heros that have fought for equality.
Honoree Rabbi Denise L. Egers
Honoree Rev. Susan Russell
Craig Stowell (below right, with his brother Calvin), who served in Iraq, says when he heard about the hearings to repeal gay marriage in New Hampshire, he thought of his 22-year-old brother Calvin and all that he had gone through growing up gay. Craig felt he had to speak out. He took out a full-page ad in the paper to tell the story of his family.
“Until a month ago, I’d never done anything, not even a letter to the editor…let alone conceived of telling my story in a full-page ad in the most conservative newspaper in New Hampshire. In our family, we stand up for each other no matter what and when it came time for me to speak up, HRC helped me find my voice…because I saw what my brother went through for too many years. It was obvious to me. The effort to take away gay marriage was not only wrong but shameful…Calvin, I’m so proud of the man you’ve become and no one has the right to take away your freedom to marry and one day, when you find the man of your dreams, I hope I’ll get to be your best man, just as you were mine.”
It was a truly inspirational evening for all.