HRC National Dinner in Photos & Video

Last night the Human Rights Campaign held our 14th Annual National Dinner  in Washington, D.C. at the Washington Convention Center.

As a special surprise, Ricky Martin opened the show talking about his recent coming out.  The program also included White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett as the guest speaker; Grammy Award winning artist P!nk who was presented with the Ally for Equality Award by Bette Midler; the National Arts & Culture Award went to the hit ABC series Modern Family and was accepted by cast members Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson; and Lee Daniels, Producer and Director of Precious and Monsters Ball took home the Visibility Award presented by Precious star Mo’Nique.

More than 3,000 people attended the event chaired by Marjorie Chorlins & Kirkland Hamill.

Photos (all copyright B.Proud) are below with video to follow:

Singer Ricky Martin, surprise guest

Drummers "Batala" welcomed the crowd of 3,100

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett

Dinner Co-Chairs Kirkland Hamill & Marjorie Chorlins

The Bradley-Black and Stanley-Galloway families before presenting the award to Modern Family

Eric Stonestreet & Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC's Modern Family

Actress and Comedian Mo'Nique

Director Lee Daniels

Bette Midler


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Video and transcript: WH’s Valerie Jarrett at HRC’s National Dinner

Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett keynoted at the HRC National Dinner last night and, in recognition of the string of recent high-profile tragic suicides of gay young people,  recognized Tammy Aaberg, mother of Justin Aaberg, who ended his life back in July.

On the WH blog, Brian Bond, Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement (aka the WH LGBT liaison) posted Jarrett’s speech, under the audacious title “It Gets Better” — in an attempt to relate it to Dan Savage’s video campaign of inspiriing messages by people to LGBT youth.

Honest to god, it’s hard to read these lofty empathetic words without thinking about how, on the ground level of policy, this WH has done much more by action to telegraph how it doesn’t get better unless it’s politically safe for the WH and Congress to do so. And fierce advocacy means taking more risk and effort than we’ve seen in the last two years.

Slow-walking a feeble DADT repeal, the disappearance of ENDA as a priority, the disheartening language and arguments to defend DOMA and DADT — that doesn’t look like an Obama White House and DOJ telling LGBT youth that they will grow up to be equal in the eyes of the law.

In fact, this President doesn’t believe they are — otherwise he wouldn’t say to these young people that when they come of age they will not have the right to marry as their straight counterparts will.

These kids have eyes and ears, and, more importantly, the bullies those who tormented them (as well as their parents) do as well. To create lasting change, these kids need to see adults acting fully on their behalf to create a world where they are truly seen as equal.

Here you go folks – reconcile the reality with this. (Video courtesy of MetroWeekly)

Thank you, Joe, for your kind introduction and your leadership of the Human Rights Campaign.  Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the attendance of a friend of the President’s and an HRC trailblazer.  Terry Bean.  And I understand that my friends – Governor Tim Kaine, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Andy Tobias, the DNC’s Treasurer – are here tonight as well.

There are also several members of our administration with us.  I won’t be able to name them all.  But I do want to acknowledge OPM Director John Berry.  John is transforming our personnel operations to be more professional, inclusive, and to mirror the best practices found in any workplace.  And I want to thank Brian Bond from my team at the White House.  Brian is a tireless advocate for the LGBT community.  Please show Brian a little love.  I’m also told there is a strong delegation of fellow Chicagoans in the house.

Finally, I want to thank the staff and many supporters of the Human Rights Campaign. HRC has been a formidable force in the fight for equality.  And you’ve been a great partner to President Obama over the past two years during some very tough battles.  Together, we’re fighting to build a fairer and freer nation. Together, we’re working toward the day no one in this country is treated like a second class citizen – not by our laws, and not in any community.

That’s why the President asked me to come here tonight, to carry a message on his behalf.  Recently, we’ve all been shocked and heartbroken by the deaths of several young people who had been harassed and bullied for being openly gay – or because people thought they were gay.  It’s a terrible tragedy.  And it has turned a harsh spotlight on an issue that often doesn’t get the public attention it deserves.  The struggles of LGBT youth.  The enormous pain that too many experience as a result of bullying.  And the desperate, tragic decision by some young people who feel that their only recourse is to take their own lives.

I say this not only as an advisor to the President.  I say this from my heart, as a mother.  I cannot begin to fathom the pain – the terrible grief – of losing a child.  There is no greater loss – and we have lost too many in just the past few months.  Asher, Billy, Seth, Tyler, Justin.  I want to express my deepest condolences to Tammy Aaberg, Justin’s mom, who is here tonight and who I just met backstage.  Please join me in recognizing her for the courage she has shown in sharing her son’s story, and honoring his memory – in the hope that no other mothers or fathers will have to know her pain.

We all want to protect our children.  We want to be there for our children.  And the idea that a young man or woman, in some cases barely teenagers – just at the start of life – would feel so hopeless and tormented as to want to end their lives, it saddens all of us.  Young people are our future. They need guidance.  They need our support.  And this responsibility is far too great to be shouldered by parents alone.  Our whole society has to step up and reaffirm our collective obligation to all of our children.  This includes the responsibility to instill in young people respect for one another. And we adults should set an example of mutual regard and civility ourselves.

More below the fold.

No young person should have to endure a life of relentless taunts and harassment, just because they’re gay.  On behalf of President Obama, I want to make clear that this administration is firmly committed to working with you and other advocates.  For we all have to ensure that we are creating an environment in our schools, our communities, and our country, that is safe for every person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Under Secretary Duncan’s leadership, the Department of Education is fundamentally changing the way we look at bullying.  And they’re working on how we can do a better job of protecting vulnerable young people.

That’s why, last year, we created a new federal task force on bullying.  And just this August they held the first National Bullying Summit, bringing in experts and advocates – including folks from HRC and GLSEN – to begin mapping out a plan to tackle this issue.  We are working to replicate proven programs that have helped schools cut down on bullying.  We must disprove the myth that bullying is an unavoidable fact of life for young people.

The Department of Education has reinvigorated the Office for Civil Rights to help stop harassment in our schools based on race, disability, sex – and bullying of LGBT young people who may not conform to gender norms.

The Department of Health and Human Services has announced an unprecedented National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.  This alliance brings together a wide range of public and private partners. And it’s going to make sure people have access to help, and to resources when they are in crisis.  One of its specific goals is preventing suicide in at-risk groups, including LGBT youth.

We must also recognize that creating a safe environment for LGBT youth also means doing more for young people who are forced to leave their homes.  For the first time, we have a national strategy to fight homelessness.  It specifically addresses the needs of LGBT youth who are living on the streets because they have been ostracized by their families, friends, and community.  This includes figuring out whether it’s possible for these children to go home, and if they can’t, that we have safe and nurturing alternatives.

So when it comes to putting a stop to the bullying and harassment of LGBT youth, we are not going to let up.  We are going to stand with you.  We are going to stand with every single young person in this country who deserves the chance to grow up, learn, have fun, and live their lives without the constant threat of violence, or ridicule.  Because although many turn a blind eye, and think that bullying is a harmless rite of passage – words matter.  Bullying is simply cruel, abusive, and needs to be stopped.  Now.  And the work done on the ground by HRC, GLSEN, P-FLAG, the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Trevor Project and countless others, are crucial to this fight.

The tragic loss of Seth, and Tyler, and Asher, and Billy, and Justin, and countless others whose names we don’t know – strikes at the heart of our values as Americans, and our sense of humanity.  We all have an obligation to engage in the broader struggle to build a more perfect union – a nation where each of us is free to pursue our own version of happiness.

And building that more perfect union means fighting discrimination in all its forms – whether in our schools, or in the workplace, on our streets, or in our moments of greatest need.   I was so proud when the President signed a directive to make sure that hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid – most hospitals – allow gay and lesbian partners the same visitation rights as straight partners.  And we’ve made clear that, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, LGBT families are entitled to the same rights as anyone else to take leave in order to care for children.

Building a more perfect union means making sure no one ever is afraid to walk down the street holding the hand of the person he or she loves.  And after a long and tough fight, with Judy Shepard at his side, President Obama marked the passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.  It’s good to see Judy here this evening, and I want to acknowledge her for the incredible perseverance she’s shown on behalf of Matthew and his legacy.

Building a more perfect union means standing against anyone trying to write inequality into our laws and our Constitution – and repealing divisive and discriminatory laws like DOMA.  And it means ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell once and for all.  This is a promise the President has made in no uncertain terms.  For the first time in history, the Secretary of Defense has testified in favor of ending this policy.  For the first time in history, we have a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has argued forcefully for allowing gay men and women to serve their country without having to subvert their integrity.  And for the first time in history, the House of Representatives has passed repeal.  Now we’ve got to keep pushing the Senate to do the right thing and get this done.

But, as you know, building a more perfect union is not just about our laws.  It’s about engendering a society where we embrace one another’s differences.  And while we have made progress, we all know that these tragedies brought on by bullying do not reflect who we are as a nation. They are a painful reminder of the work we still have to do.  That we must feel the fierce urgency to step up now.

We have to keep fighting together.  We must not lose hope.  We cannot allow people to sow division among us – not when the stakes are so high for our country.

After all, as President Obama said when he spoke here last year, the people in this room are a testament to the progress we have already made as a nation.  You are a testament to the capacity of our American ideals to help us overcome old prejudices.  To allow us to see in each other, our common humanity.  In short, you are living proof of what has become a powerful message in recent days.  Simply put: “It gets better.”

And what is clear is that this depends on all of us.  It depends on changing laws, and changing hearts.  It depends on creating an environment in which our children feel safe to be themselves.  And it depends on reaching all of our young people, and letting them know that we care about them, and that want them to thrive and reach for their dreams, without fear.

That’s exactly what President Obama said when he spoke to children across this country at the start of this school year.

“[L]ife is precious, and part of its beauty lies in its diversity,” he said.  “We shouldn’t be embarrassed by the things that make us different.  We should be proud of them.  Because it’s the things that make us different, that make us who we are.  And the strength and character of this country have always come from our ability to recognize ourselves in one another.”

It is this character of our country that drives the Human Rights Campaign.  It’s what drives President Obama.  And it is this strength and character that gives us hope.  That we will build that more perfect union.  That there is a brighter future ahead for us all, and especially for our children.

Thank you.

Breathtaking, isn’t it?  
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Keynoter both feted and knocked? It must be HRC Nat’l Dinner time again


Washington – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, today announced that White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett will be a guest speaker at the organization’s 14th Annual National Dinner to be held on Saturday, October 9, 2010 in Washington, D.C.

“Valerie Jarrett is a tremendous addition to the event and we look forward to hearing from one of the President’s closest advisors,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “She and President Obama both care deeply about equality and are strong supporters of those of us fighting for LGBT rights.” [SOURCE]

Servicemembers United:

“We certainly do not feel like the White House is a ‘strong supporter’ of gay and lesbian troops and veterans right now,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army human intelligence collector who was also discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “Before she appears at a black-tie fundraiser to tout the administration’s ‘strong support,’ Jarrett should meet and talk with those who have actually been impacted by this discriminatory law and who continue to fight this uphill battle for the lives and livelihoods of gay and lesbian troops. To ignore the reality of the administration’s choices, a reality manifested in our daily lives, while appearing at a party hosted by an organization that has given cover to this administration would be incredibly insulting.” [SOURCE]

We’re certainly an interesting movement.

Good As You

—  John Wright

FRC’s Perkins pissed at Cornyn for talking at Log Cabin dinner

Cornyn is trying to have his cake and eat it too. He claims he doesn’t agree with Log Cabin, but if they agree that all the Senate committees should be chaired with Republicans, then he’s happy to work with them. Yeah, that’s cute, but it doesn’t really fly. If a group of pedophiles wanted the Republicans to chair all Senate committee, Cornyn wouldn’t attend their dinner. Clearly Cornyn is saying that gays are a respectable force in politics, whether or not he agrees with them. And that’s what Tony Perkins, fey as is he is, is getting at. And he’s right.


—  John Wright

Air Force Academy’s alumni group cancels Veterans Day dinner honoring history of LGBT service in AF

This breaking news is not only discriminatory, it’s simply a no-class decision by the United States Air Force Academy Association of Graduates.

OutServe, the network of actively serving gay and lesbian military members, was to be the sponsor and host the dinner along with Blue Alliance, an organization of gay and lesbian alumni of the Air Force Academy. The deposits on location had been made — the organizations had an agreement with the Association of Graduates to use the Association of Graduates building on Air Force Academy property for the event, and invitations had already been extended to Congress members, allied military officers, and leaders in the lesbian and gay community.

Just so Blenders know, Outserve had invited me to the event as a supportive member of the LGBT blogging community. I was looking forward to the dinner to honor those who have served in silence and to be able to liveblog the event for you. Now that’s not going to happen. Here’s why. (Denver Post):

A spokesman said the event placed the school’s leadership in the tough spot of appearing to endorse repeal of the current ban, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The turnabout has set off a fusillade of charges and countercharges, focusing attention on the institution that is known as the most conservative of the service academies just as the military studies the possibility of welcoming openly gay fighters.

A spokesman for the group OutServe, one of the dinner’s sponsors whose members include gay Air Force Academy graduates currently serving, called the cancelation “blatant discrimination.” The event was meant not as a political statement but to recognize the contribution of gays and lesbians to the country’s armed forces, said the spokesman, who is a lieutenant in the active-duty military.

Gary Howe, executive vice president of the alumni association – known as the Association of Graduates – said the groups are trying to embarrass the Air Force Academy at a delicate moment in the debate. “To think that holding such an event on the United States Air Force Academy (campus) would not be political, I think they’re blowing smoke,” Howe said.

Howe’s comment is ridiculous – his problem is the dinner would have highlighted service by those in the Air Force who put their lives on the line for this country, even at the risk of being discharged for reasons that have nothing to do with performance or patriotism. The Air Force should be embarrassed at DADT, and holding the dinner would at least suggest that understands this sacrifice. It is turning the page and facing reality.

“At a time when we’re honoring veterans, we wanted to recognize probably the most ignored veterans in our country: gays and lesbians,” said OutServe’s active-duty co-director, who goes by the pseudonym JD Smith. “It was made clear this dinner was not to be an event regarding ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ it was to be a night to honor the LGBT history in the Air Force. All in attendance would fully comply with Air Force policy – including ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ ” A program outlining the dinner was sent to the administration to assure the association that the dinner was not to be political in nature.

“Veterans Day is for all veterans, including gays and lesbians,” stated Ty Walrod, co-director of OutServe. “Intentional or not, this sends a message that their sacrifices were not, and are not, valued. OutServe members who are currently serving their country, the Air Force Academy graduates, and most importantly all those who have given their lives in defense of this country who happened to be gay or lesbian, deserve better.”

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

What will be said about the state of the community at this year’s HRC National Dinner?

Anyone going to attend to hear about the state of major LGBT accomplishments promised in 2010? After all, the HRC National Dinner is being billed as “No excuses” this year.

I think we can expect to hear about these positive — though in most cases not permanent — policy changes:

  • The Office of Personnel Management, under openly gay John Berry, has made extended certain benefits to the same sex partners of federal employees that aren’t affected by DOMA, of course;
  • Health and Human Services has directed those institutions receiving fed funds to allow hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples;
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act has been re-interpreted by the Labor Department of this administration to allow a caregiver irrespective of their biological or legal relationship to care for a child without losing their job.
  • The HIV travel ban has been lifted;
  • And for the transgender community there has significant change – appointment of open transgender staff to this administration, as well as implement  the issuance of gender-appropriate passports that is essential when one is unable, because of state law, to present a gender-appropriate driver’s license or birth certificate;
  • No doubt they’ll try to coast on Hate Crimes yet again.

So yes, there will be something for Joe Solmonese to say up at the podium. And those changes do affect LGBTs around the country. The barebones truth though, is Joe will not be able to tick off a list that includes the major policy items that were promised to the community and donors as “done deals” all year long.

2/27/2010: HRCs’ President Joe Solmonese at the HRC Carolinas Gala on Saturday night. I was there reporting for the Blend as he made these emphatic statements to the members of the LGBT community and allies from North and South Carolina in attendance at the Raleigh Convention Center about what was going to be accomplished this year.

1. “We are going to eliminate the tax that you pay on domestic partner benefits. We’re going to get rid of that this year at long last.”

2. “We are going to extend domestic partnerships to federal employees.”

3. “We are going to get people living with HIV/AIDS treatment much earlier if they are on public assistance.”

4. “And finally, finally this year we are going to bring down the discriminatory policy known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’…once and for all.

He can’t tick DADT off because all of the subsequent signals from this administration indicated there was no intention of working for full repeal this year. Every public action and statement was either obstructionist (Gibbs) or just plain slow-go, foot-dragging.” Either Joe was caught up in the moment and freelanced those NC remarks without HRC vetting or he was completely duped by the White House/Hill on messaging and goals regarding repeal. I don’t know which it is, but since it’s occurred before (see Southern Comfort and ENDA), that’s not very savvy for an organization with the level of access, power and reputation that is, by default, “representing the LGBT community.” If my video and the other from Southern Comfort had not been widely circulated, you folks out there wouldn’t have a clue about the “missteps” (to be charitable)  that go on to this day…on your behalf. We can’t tick off ENDA or domestic partners either. It’s sobering. But I’m sure Pink and the cast of Modern Family will gloss over these matters for the guests with checkbooks attending.

I do hope that this dinner’s state of the LGBT community speech is crafted with a sense that there are meaningful things to celebrate, but to have credibility there needs to be a public recognition that this year also represents a more difficult uphill battle with this administration and Congress than anticipated. There were promises this President made in good faith to the community that he failed to follow through on. After 8+ years in the legislative wilderness, an organization charged with lobbying for equality on the Hill will need to convey a real commitment — not just branding — to “no excuses” when it comes to dealing with those in power.

NOTE: I personally found the Carolinas Dinner fascinating to cover (former HRC Comm staffer Trevor Thomas was instrumental in getting me in at the last minute to set up to report) since you see, as you can imagine, a different $lice of the LGBT community, than you normally see out and about. I do know that many of the attendees at the Carolinas Dinner were not particularly well-informed about policy or progress (or not) of any legislation, but many I spoke with were there for an evening out with the communityt and to support HRC as the organization that will do the political heavy lifting for them.  I have not attended the National Dinner before, as a guest or media, so I don’t have a feel for the scope or sense of the depth of political engagement of the attendees.  
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright