2015 Black Tie Dinner focused on re-energizing the community in the ongoing fight for LGBT equality
When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling on June 26 declaring marriage equality to be the law of the land, the LGBT community rejoiced. To many, that victory meant the war had been won.
But now, nearly five months later, the euphoria has begun to wear off. And things like the Nov. 3 vote defeating Houston’s wide-ranging equal rights ordinance have begun to reinforce the reality that while we claimed victory in a huge battle this summer, the war for equality most definitely rages on.
This weekend, organizers of Dallas’ annual Black Tie Dinner hope to get the fire relit and burning brightly.
Black Tie Dinner — complete with live and silent auctions, award presentations, speakers and entertainment — is being held Saturday night, Nov. 14, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. A limited number of individual tickets are available, for $400 each, until midnight tonight (Friday, Nov. 13) through the Black Tie website, BlackTie.Org.
The weekend begins tonight with the B4 Black preview party from 8-10 p.m. at the hotel. The party is free and open to the public, and those attending will have a chance to preview — and even bid on — silent auction items.
The theme for the 34th annual fundraiser is “Ignite the Night,” and dinner co-chair John Lawrimore said this week that Black Tie Committee members are focused on “re-igniting the community. We still have a lot of work to do, a lot of goals we are working to reach. The focus of Black Tie this year is re-igniting the passion we need to get that work done and reach those goals.
“Our greatest enemy is complacency,” Lawrimore added. “We have made such huge strides this year, but the vote in Houston shows us how easily that progress can be lost. We have to keep it going.”
Mitzi Lemons, this year’s other co-chair, said organizers are delighted to have Houston Mayor Annise Parker as a speaker at the Saturday night dinner. Parker — who became the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city when she was elected to her first term in 2009 — should bring an in-depth view of what happened with the HERO vote and is in a unique position to rally the community to continue the fight.
Lemons said that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings will also attend the dinner, but that Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price is unable to attend because of a prior engagement.
“We are glad to have Mayor Parker and Mayor Rawlings attending the dinner with us this year,” Lemons said. “It is very important to have our local elected officials participating in our community and supporting us.”
Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in June, will also be a featured speaker at the dinner on Saturday night, along with Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the national beneficiary of Black Tie Dinner.
Melissa Grove, executive director of the Legacy Counseling Center and Legacy Founders Cottage, will receive the 2015 Kuchling Humanitarian Award, honoring her more than 20 years of work with the organization that offers counseling services and hospice care for people with HIV/AIDS.
“Melissa Grove has provided what seems like a lifetime of leadership and commitment to Legacy over the years,” Lawrimore said earlier this year in announcing the award. “From instituting the Founders Cottage to opening new housing programs to putting together the largest conference in the nation for HIV-positive women, Melissa continues to touch people living with HIV/AIDS in unimaginable ways.”
The 2015 Elizabeth Birch Award will be presented to The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT and questioning young people ages 13-24.
Jeff Olde, executive vice president of programming and development with E! Entertainment Network, will receive the Black Tie Dinner Media Award on Saturday night, in recognition of his work on E!’s documentary series I Am Cait, which followed the transition of Caitlyn Jenner.
Lemons said Olde “has brought honest, educational and compelling attention to transgender issues” with the series on Jenner. She added, “Jeff’s role in leading this project from its inception to its reality will have a lasting impact on real lives as well as open the hearts of those who, until now, just could not understand. It is a privilege for Black Tie Dinner to honor him.”
Black Tie Dinner will have “a wide variety of people on stage this year” beyond the array of speakers and the award winners, Lawrimore said, pointing to the entertainment lineup that begins with comedian Dana Goldberg as emcee for the evening. Goldberg won rave reviews as emcee of the 2014 dinner.
Also on hand to entertain will be the New York City-based string quartet Well Strung, which creates a unique sound by blending classical music with the today’s pop music; country music star Ty Herndon, who came out as a gay man last November; and RCA recording artist Betty Who, an Australian performer who has opened for Katy Perry and Kylie Minogue.
About half the proceeds from Black Tie Dinner each year go to HRC, and both Lemons and Lawrimore noted that funds from the Dallas event go to the HRC Foundation instead of toward paying for lobbyists. The foundation is a tax-exempt nonprofit that has programs focused on LGBT families, religion and faith, workplace equality, youth and education issues and LGBT equality around the world.
The other half of Black Tie proceeds are divided between local LGBT and HIV/AIDS nonprofits. This year’s local beneficiaries are AIDS Interfaith Network, AIDS Outreach Center, AIDS Services of Dallas, Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ, Celebration Community Church, Congregation Beth El Binah, Equality Texas Foundation, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Legacy Counseling Center, Legal Hospice of Texas, Northaven United Methodist Church, Resource Center, Turtle Creek Chorale, Uptown Players Inc. and Women’s Chorus of Dallas.
Dallas Black Tie Dinner is the largest event of its kind in the country, and is the only HRC fundraising dinner that also benefits local organizations.•
For more information, visit BlackTie.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 13, 2015.