By: Brandy Black
“Speak The Truth” was the theme of the Human Rights Campaign “HRC” gala dinner in Los Angeles. It was a star-studded evening and I had a chance to chat it up with some of the fabulous celebs that walked the red carpet before the big event.
Michael Manning- Real World DC
B- How was coming out on National TV on Real Word DC?
Michael- “Think of the hardest thing you’ve ever done and have a million eyes on you while you’re doing it.”
B- Any advice you’d give LGBT youth?
Don’t let other people tell you how to live. You’re born a certain way…just be who you are, show the world that we’re your doctors, your lawyers, we teach in your schools, we drive your busses, we’re just as boring as anyone else so give us the same rights.
Jillian Michael’s from The Biggest Loser
This is a cause that I’m very much behind. I think it’s extremely important that we support this. I actually don’t even know what to tell you; it doesn’t even make sense that we’re even here right now, but I’ll do whatever it takes to be supportive.
B- Is this your first HRC event?
Jillian- Yes it is and I’m here to support Suze Orman and KT, her lover; they’ve been tremendous friends and mentors of mine. I’m very excited.
Kathy Griffin’s mom-
We need marriages to last – I think everyone should get married.
Louis Van Amstel- Dancing With The Stars
Suze Orman and Portia Di Rossi dashed past to the gala right before dinner began. The room was full of beautiful people laughing and toasting. Suze Orman opened the evening by saying,
I find it strange that we need a campaign for all the people in this room, including me.
The crowd cheered.
Over the clinking of dishes and bubbling champagne there were many moving speakers throughout the evening. Joe Solmonese, the President of the Human Rights Campaign, gave an eloquent speech about how far we’ve come and where we are going.
We are the aggressors and they are the victims, that’s why the Perry trial couldn’t be televised…we are winning…changing laws is what makes life better.
US Senator Barbara Boxer received a standing ovation when she stepped onto the stage. She spoke in support of the crowd before her with a determination to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell”.
“It is a privilege and honor to work with the HRC. It is a powerful force and they ask just one thing from their country –to be treated equally.”
She went on to explain that we need to focus on the victories. “After more than 10 years of debate, the Matthew Shepard bill got signed into law.” She talked about ENDA- Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
“I’m going to pick up the baton and do everything I can until ENDA is signed into law.” Barbara ended her speech with,
marriage equality is a civil right, plain and simple. If you make a commitment to honor and love, that’s marriage isn’t it? I stand for marriage equality strong in my heart- from me to you.
Chelsea Montgomery-Duban, age 16, gave a speech full of laughter and tears. She has been attending the HRC events with her two dads since she was 9 years old.
“My parents didn’t feel the need to run off and get married right away, but it was important to me. You see, they are both listed on my birth certificate, they are both my parents, but they were strangers in the eyes of the law…my family should have every basic right that is given freely to other couples in the country. No one has the right to tell them who they love. My generation isn’t going to sick back quietly and allow people that we love to suffer discrimination. While I can’t vote yet and I am just getting used to driving, my drive for equality is unstoppable. This is why I love HRC.”
Kathy Griffin rocked the house with screams and hollers.
“Hello gays and people that support them!”
As expected, she cracked some funny jokes, pitched her “My Life on the D List” show, and boasted about her dress for the gay men in the audience, but after the laughter she brought the house to tears when she began talking about the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. She read letters from a gay man in the military and his partner of 10 years regarding their feelings on the matter. Their words were heart wrenching and a reminder of how truly unfair it is that gays and lesbians are serving a country that they believe in, yet that very country doesn’t believe in them.
Betty Degeneres (Ellen’s mom) introduced Portia de Rossi for the Visibility Award. Portia explained that she felt awkward receiving an award from the HRC when they do so much and thanked them for their work on her behalf.
“I was an extremely closeted actress for the first few years of my career…I wouldn’t even drive down Santa Monica Blvd because I was afraid people would see me through the window and wonder what I was doing in the gay part of town. Back then I thought it was no one’s business that I was gay…but over time I came to realize how selfish that is and how important it is to be visible. Because acting, while it’s a fine profession, isn’t really an important thing to do with your life compared to what you can do to advance acceptance and equality in society. Despite the fact that TV executives tell me that being gay is no longer an issue, it will remain an issue as long as actors continue to hide their sexuality…there are only a handful of actors…brave enough to come out…”
She went on to explain how Proposition 8 changed everything for her; she found herself having discussions with “so-called ‘liberal people’” about marriage: “I developed a knack for turning any question into a discussion about gay marriage. For example, ‘what are you wearing?’ I would say ‘a wedding ring’…talking really is the key ingredient to changing people’s opinions into real lasting change.”
It was a beautiful evening full of truth and a celebration of being one’s self. So to those of you hiding in the shadows, come out, come out, wherever you are. Cheers.