Equality Texas honors J.C. Penney, Adair Lion, Kaylee Anne Keith at inaugural Ally Awards

With his hands in the air and his feet sternly adjacent, rapper Adair Lion spit out the lyrics to his controversial song “BEN” that “gay is okay.” It was a fitting conclusion for the inaugural Equality Texas Ally Awards. As the Individual of the Year recipient wrapped up his surprise performance, the crowd of 50 roared in applause.

Equality Texas, the LGBT advocacy group, hosted its first Ally Awards benefit Friday at the Vendome on Turtle Creek. The successful event awarded strong allies in the community who have gone out of their way to show support in the LGBT fight for equality.

Guests mixed and mingled while enjoying the finely decorated assorted cake balls, donated by the Cupcakery, along with an open bar hosted by Tito’s vodka, and complimentary wine.

Opening the ceremony, dressed in Western wear and topped with his tan cowboy hat, was Wade Hyde, board member for Equality Texas. Hyde thanked the crowed for coming out and announced the first winner of the night, for Business of the Year J.C.Penney. Accepting the award was Wendi Hollenbeck, who was featured in the controversial Mother’s Day ad with her partner Maggie and their daughters. Hollenbeck said she is thankful for the award and hopes more businesses will come out and accept their employees and protect their rights the way J.C. Penney has for her and her family. As Hollenbeck walked off stage she was met with a loving embrace by her partner.

For Civic Leaders of the Year, local President Barack Obama campaign worker Micheal Lee accepted the award. “While it gives me great pleasure to accept this award today it would give me even more pleasure to be able to come back four years from now and say you know we gave that award a little too early because he’s [President Obama] accomplished way more than we ever thought,” said Lee. “This is a down payment on something that is long overdue.”

Rounding out the awards were the recipients for Individuals of the Year, Kaylee Anne Keith and Adair Lion. “I’m very humbled and I will continue to be an ally and continue to share this message,” said Keith, who was honored for her Miss West Texas 2011 anti-bullying platform. Lion, who is engaged to Keith, jumped on stage with a grin and received his award. Lion then explained that Keith’s original platform was specifically for LGBT equality but due to pressure from organizers was forced to change it to the non-controversial issue of bullying.

Lion, who become widely recognized for his recent pro-LGBT song “BEN,” said when he first performed the piece he received negative feed back from crowd. “When I finished the song it was crickets,” said Lion with a laugh. After the YouTube release, he said the song went viral and a new fan base emerged and was giving him more support than he had ever recieved before. “It’s nice to get this response and get this award and know that it wasn’t all in vein,” said Lion.

Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman then took the stage and thanked everyone for their support. Coleman told the crowd about a new bill Equality Texas is pushing that would force all business in Texas to add a non-discrimination clause to their addendum that would protect the jobs of people in the LGBT community. He asked the room to show their full support for the bill and encouraged everyone to help with donations to Equality Texas.

The room packed full of cowboys, cowgirls and everyone in between continued the festivities and the raffle winners were announced. Coleman said he hopes this event will grow bigger and better and will become a staple for Equality Texas.

More photos below.

—  admin

Equality Texas to honor allies

Adair Lion

Kaylee Anne Keith

Wrangle out that over-sized belt buckle, your 10-gallon hat and brush up on those two-stepping skills. Equality Texas, the LGBT advocacy group, will host its first-ever Texas-themed Ally Awards on Friday at the Vendome on Turtle Creek Boulevard. This year’s honoree recipients are: J.C. Penney for Business of the Year, rapper/singer/producer Adair Lion and Miss West Texas Kaylee Anne Keith for Individuals of the Year; and President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for Civic Leaders of the Year.

Dennis Coleman, executive director for Equality Texas, said the idea for an ally awards benefit was created after seeing the success of  Equality Utah and Equality Colorado’s Ally Awards banquets. The winners were chosen from an online poll earlier this year. “We cannot do this on our own word. We need our allies. They have been important for the fight for equality,” said Coleman. “We are hoping this becomes a catalyst for larger things to come, like our friends in Colorado.”

In May, J.C. Penney published an ad featuring a lesbian couple in their Mother’s Day circulation, and recently another ad featuring Dallas gay couple Cooper Smith and Todd Koch and their two children. J.C. Penney received a lot of backlash, specifically from the group One Million Moms, but has stood by its decision to represent diverse families.

—  admin

“Gay is Okay” rapper Adair Lion, beauty queen fiancee, to receive first Equality Texas Ally Award

Equality Texas just announced the honorees for its firs- ever Ally Awards. Earlier this month, I spoke with rapper Adair Lion about his viral song and video “Gay is Okay,” which garnered a whole lot of buzz. Now comes word he will receive the Equality Texas Ally Individual of the Year Award alongside his fiancee, Miss West Texas Kaylee Anne Keith, whose platform includes bullying prevention. Lion is in good company. JCPenney was named Business of the Year and the POTUS (and VPOTUS) were named Civic Leaders of the Year.

I called Lion for his response. He was both nervous and thrilled.

“I don’t know what to wear,” he said at first. But he finds himself rather amazed by the honor and his fellow winners.

“Isn’t that awesome? I feel ecstatic especially since this is the first time for the awards. I’m so honored and it’s really crazy,” he said.

It also meant a great deal to share it with his fiancee. He felt Keith may have crashed-and-burned with her LGBT-friendly platform at the Miss Texas pageant, but he’s more proud that she stayed true to her platform where others advised her not to.

“She really stuck out her neck in an area of Texas where this talk is still a bit taboo. To stand up for the community in West Texas, people would tell her not to push this platform. It could have been great or disastrous for her. It worked in Miss West Texas though, but not so much in Miss Texas. But I’m so proud of her and this award is like a validation of that. The dialogue needs to be open for everyone — rappers, beauty queens, artists — and this won’t be taboo anymore. When morality changes, that’s when the laws change. We’re seeing that now.”

The Ally Awards will take place June 22 at the Vendome. Read the full press release here.

—  Rich Lopez