January 17, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Lauper to headline HRC inaugural party
Cyndi Lauper will headline HRC inauguration party. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Cyndi Lauper will headline HRC inauguration party. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

An estimated 1,500 people are expected to attend the Human Rights Campaign’s quadrennial inauguration celebration at the Mayflower Hotel in Northwest D.C. on Jan. 21.

Singer Cyndi Lauper will again perform at the event alongside former “American Idol” contestant Frenchie Davis and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, Tony Award-winning actress Audra McDonald, actor Will Swenson of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” and “Hair” and Ross Mathews of “Chelsea Lately” and “The Tonight Show” are also scheduled to attend.

“It’s a varied cast,” HRC spokesperson Fred Sainz told the Washington Blade. “It’s going to be an incredibly fun program.”

HRC President Chad Griffin is expected to deliver what Sainz described as “short remarks.” Politicians and other federal and elected officials from across the country are also expected to attend, but a confirmed list of attendees was not immediately available.

“It’s going to be an incredibly exciting opportunity for us to really kind of celebrate how far we’ve come and to then rededicate ourselves to the work ahead,” Sainz said. “And within the next 6 months there’s going to be an awful lot of historic opportunities for us to propel our movement to even greater heights and this evening is really all about bringing those various opportunities together in one place.”

The event will take place less than three months after same-sex marriage referenda passed in Maine, Maryland and Washington and Minnesota voters struck down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Lawmakers in Illinois and Rhode Island continue to debate same-sex marriage bills, while the U.S. Supreme Court in March will hear oral arguments in cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the election of interim Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland as the state’s first openly gay jurist. Maryland legislators later this year are also expected to consider a measure that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.

President Obama’s supporters point to his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples, the repeal of the Pentagon’s ban on openly gay and lesbian service members, the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the federal hate crimes law and urging Uganda and other countries to protect the rights of their LGBT citizens as among his administration’s numerous accomplishments during its first term.

Advocates over the last four years have criticized the White House on a number of issues that include its refusal to issue an executive order that would ban federal contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees and the president’s nomination earlier this month of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Obama’s decision not to address the International AIDS Conference that took place in D.C. last July also raised eyebrows among some HIV/AIDS advocates and service providers.

“The LGBT community has so much to celebrate with President Obama’s re-election,” Joseph Palacios, director of the Catholics for Equality Foundation, said as he discussed his plans to attend the HRC inaugural celebration. “This inaugural ball brings together all the key LGBT organizations in the country, so it will be a grand reunion for so many people who worked on the Obama campaign, marriage equality campaigns and the election of so many state and local officials — especially Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate.”

Palacios added Lauper, who performed at the organization’s 2009 inaugural ball, is another draw.

“She and the other entertainers will keep us dancing and inspiring us to keep up the fight for LGBT equality,” he said.

Tickets to the event that includes an open bar and cocktail buffet are $375 ($275 for active duty servicemembers) and are available online. Log onto http://hrc.org/inauguration/section/entertainment#.UPbB53fAGSo for further information.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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