PHOTOS AND VIDEO: Black Tie draws 3,000, raises over $1 million

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, addresses the crowd of 3,000 during what was his first Black Tie Dinner on Saturday at the Sheraton Dallas. (Chuck Marcelo/Dallas Voice)

SLIDESHOW: CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM BLACK TIE

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

Heartfelt stories of progress and hope at Saturday’s 31st Black Tie Dinner reminded the audience that while the LGBT community has accomplished so much, there is still more to achieve.

The sold-out event brought together about 3,000 in the community to raise money for the Human Rights Campaign and 18 local beneficiaries.

Chris Kouvelis, BTD co-chair, said Monday that more than $1 million was raised from the event. The total will be announced at the distribution party Dec. 13. He said the location of the party hasn’t been decided yet.

One of the most touching moments of the evening was when HRC President Chad Griffin mentioned 19-year-old Alice he met back in June on his first day as HRC president. The teen, who was Griffin’s guest at Black Tie on Saturday, drove two hours to the event in Little Rock, Ark., and asked him what he would do for people like her. Alice, as the teen goes by, lives in a small town with religious parents and is afraid to tell them she is a lesbian. Griffin said he could only guarantee Alice that the organization would fight to end hate and encourage acceptance in all states.

“The only thing I had to offer was a promise. A promise that HRC will keep fighting everyday until equality reaches every single person in every single corner of this vast country,” Griffin said.

Griffin said even after the LGBT community tips the balance in favor of President Barack Obama and lesbian Senate hopeful Tammy Baldwin on Tuesday, “there will still be people like Alice out there just trying to find a welcoming place to call home.” He said HRC will continue to fight battles for young people to provide a future “they deserve to inherit.”

Chaz Bono, who received the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award, shared his coming out stories that both took place under the national spotlight, first when he came out as a lesbian and then later when he came out as trans. He said people needed to remember the T more when they think of LGBT, and he encouraged BTD to make a trans organization a beneficiary in the coming years.

Lesbian actress Meredith Baxter then addressed the audience as the keynote speaker. She highlighted the importance of her coming out three years ago on The Today Show. She said even with all her success as an actress, it wasn’t until she came out that she felt entitled to her success for being true to who she was.

“I could never have foreseen how transforming and how rewarding that my personal and public revelation was going to be,” she said.

Baxter mentioned the compelling story of Timothy Kurek, a straight man who spent a year living as a gay man in order to find empathy for his lesbian friend. She encouraged others to continue to be visible and tell their stories in order to continue the fight for equality nationwide.

“Not one thing changed in America until we chose to be visible to come out honestly to our friends and family and co-workers,” she said. “Just to be known. Just to be ourselves.”

Watch videos of the speakers below.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Chad Griffin in Dallas

I am delayed in getting this posted (it’s been a long week), but new Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin spoke in Dallas on June 23 during the DFW Federal Club’s Summer Luncheon at the Tower Club. Griffin took over for Joe Solmonese earlier this month. Watch video of Griffin’s remarks in two parts below.

—  John Wright

HRC taps Chad Griffin as its next president

Chad Griffin, left, and Joe Solmonese

38-year-old founder of AFER, which brought Prop 8 lawsuit, to lead nation’s largest gay-rights group

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

The next president of the nation’s largest LGBT political group will be Chad Griffin, a California activist who’s made a name for himself by initiating and orchestrating one of the most important legal challenges in LGBT history. Griffin will replace current Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in June.

Griffin, 38, is the founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that enlisted the legal services of some of the nation’s best lawyers to launch a lawsuit against California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8. The lawsuit, which so far has succeeded in having Proposition 8 declared unconstitutional in both federal district court and by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is considered one of the most important pieces of litigation in LGBT history.

The Human Rights Campaign announced Griffin’s appointment Friday.

“We’re ecstatic to have someone of Chad’s caliber as our next president,” HRC co-chair Tim Downing and HRC Foundation co-chair Sandra Hartness said in a joint statement. “His superior credentials and achievements, both as a visionary and strategist, make him uniquely qualified to lead this organization forward. Chad has a proven track record of consistently delivering results during his career. That’s something that our community rightly expects and deserves.”

Through an HRC press release, Griffin said he was honored by the HRC board’s decision.

“While there’s no doubt that we’ve made tremendous progress on the road to equality, we must not forget that millions of LGBT Americans still lack basic legal protections and suffer the consequences of discrimination every day,” said Griffin. “Today’s generation of young people, and each generation hereafter, must grow up with the full and equal protection of our laws, and finally be free to participate in the American dream. As HRC president, I’ll approach our work with a great sense of urgency because there are real-life consequences to inaction.”

Log Cabin Republicans National President R. Clarke Cooper called Griffin “a leader who knows achieving victory will require advocacy and champions on both sides of the [partisan] aisle.”

Solmonese, whose contract with HRC was scheduled to end this month, will stay on until Griffin takes the helm June 11.

Griffin was a relative unknown to the LGBT community nationally until he organized the lawsuit, Perry v. Brown, against Proposition 8. He enlisted lead attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, two of the best and best-known attorneys in the country, to take the case, drawing a flood of publicity and optimism to the prospects for success in striking down the ban.

The announcement of that lawsuit drew resistance from many established LGBT legal activists at first. Many thought that taking the marriage issue into federal court — a seemingly inevitable issue for the U.S. Supreme Court — was risky and premature, given the growing conservatism of the high court. They wanted a lawsuit to evolve out of a careful campaign of public education. Even renowned constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe believed the timing was risky. Tensions were so high at one point, Griffin’s legal team opposed the appointment of LGBT legal groups as intervenors in the case, leaving the LGBT community essentially out of the loop in a case that would directly impact it.

But as the litigation developed, Griffin and his litigators began to work with LGBT legal group leaders and the tensions turned quickly into teamwork.

Prior to founding the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), Griffin was a founding partner of the political communications and campaign firm of Griffin|Schein in Los Angeles.

A native of Arkansas, Griffin also worked for a time in the White House communications office of President Bill Clinton.

HRC is perhaps the LGBT national community’s most stable organization, having changed leaders on a fairly consistent basis every six years. The organization was established in 1978 by Steve Endean and hired Washington, D.C., activist Vic Basile as executive director in 1983. Basile was followed by Massachusetts activist Tim McFeeley in 1989, California leader Elizabeth Birch in 1995, Washington operative Joe Solmonese in 2005, and now by Griffin.

© 2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

 

—  John Wright