Human Rights Campaign has once again done an impressive job of booking talent for its national dinner, set for Saturday in Washington, its highest profile annual event, with Pink, Bette Midler, Oscar winner Mo’Nique and the cast of ABC’s hilarious gay-inclusive sitcom “Modern Family” set to appear. HRC announced today that White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett will also speak.
“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.”
Those who don’t have tickets are likely out of luck. The black-tie event is sold out but a waiting list is available here for the $275 tickets. More than 3,000 are expected at the Washington Convention Center. HRC president Joe Solmonese echoes a recurring theme — it’s been “a remarkable year,” he says, “but there is much work left to be done.”
The program begins at 7 p.m. and includes a silent auction of many items, several of which are musically themed such as a child’s violin and case, inscribed “Stradivarius anno 1725,” and an antique, red and gold silk brocade grand piano cover. Also featured are a package of air travel and hotel accommodations to attend this year’s annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, two Delta Airlines round-trip tickets courtesy of ORBITZ, weekend stays at Kimpton hotels and more.
Every year since 1997, HRC has hosted a national dinner featuring high-profile speakers such as President Barack Obama last year and in past years President Bill Clinton and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. The organization was founded in 1980 and is America’s largest LGBT advocacy group. In 2003, it opened its headquarters building in Washington and Solmonese became president in 2005.
Receiving HRC awards will be singer/songwriter Pink, receiving the Ally for Equality Award from presenter Bette Midler; and Lee Daniels, producer/director of the 2009 film “Precious,” receiving the Visibility Award from presenter Mo’Nique, who won an Oscar for her role in that film. The National Arts and Culture Award will go to three members of the cast of the hit TV sitcom “Modern family” — Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sonia Vergara.
HRC’s agenda is wide-ranging, including pressing for action on hate crimes and success was finally reached on this front in 2009 when President Obama signed into law — in the names of victims Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. — a hate crime amendment giving the U.S. Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence. At the time, Solmonese called the law “an historic milestone” as “the first time that we as a nation have explicitly protected the LGBT community in the law.”
Other priorities include promoting steps to protect families through marriage equality and relationship recognition; fighting to end the military’s discrimination through the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law; and creating a fair and equal workplace through enactment of a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), so that employees cannot be fired based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
In recent years, other LGBT-oriented groups have staged protests at the National Dinner, accusing HRC of neglecting to prioritize transgender rights issues, among other complaints. Obama’s presence last year made for a raucous, celebratory atmosphere. But with repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” one of the movement’s top priorities, in limbo, and Democrats facing dim midterm election prospects, partygoers may not be in such high spirits this weekend.
PHOTO: HRC President Joe Solmonese at the 2008 dinner. (Blade file photo by Henry Linser)