The Human Rights Campaign’s “Out for Equality” ball felt special because it was a family affair. I have been to many inaugural balls over the years but Monday night at the Mayflower Hotel was different.
It was a celebration not only of the inauguration of Barack Obama but of the successes of so many who attended. As I walked through the rooms I felt the need to thank so many people for all the work they have done to get us to where we are today. When the president of the United States spoke about our “gay brothers and sisters” during his inaugural address I realized how much all those efforts have accomplished. Having met Martin Luther King, Jr. and worked for Bella S. Abzug I had tears in my eyes when the president in his clear and vibrant voice told the nation that we must continue to move forward as we had “from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall.”
I came to party and that I did. Eating and drinking and listening to great entertainment from Audra McDonald to the indomitable Cyndi Lauper. But as I walked into the hotel and spotted Chad Griffin chatting with Elizabeth Birch and Tammy Baldwin and her chief of staff Bill Murat surrounded by admirers, I was reminded that this was my own history. Walking the rooms I realized how many people I owed for all their efforts and activism. I have been fortunate to work with many of them on issues over the years. This was a party of heroes in our community some of whom have been out front and others who’ve worked behind the scenes.
It was a great show and someone suggested it was a shame that everyone couldn’t afford to be there. While I have criticized HRC for one thing or another over the years, this definitely wasn’t one of them. There were people from every LGBT organization whom I have respected for years. I will get into trouble when I start listing names but to those not mentioned please excuse me and know that it isn’t meant as a slight. It was great to see Brian Johnson and Darlene Nipper from the Task Force and Dana Beyer, a force in her own right for transgender people and someone who fights for all of us. David Hagedorn, one of my favorite chefs, and someone who has used his talent to advocate and raise funds for good causes all his life. Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell who have spent the last 10 years building the successful Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. It was good to see Mayor Cory Booker recognize the importance of our community as he builds his political career with a possible Senate run in New Jersey. Our newly elected and openly gay congressmen and those like Jared Polis and his chief of staff Brian Branton who continue to work for us. Staffers from Rep. Diana DeGette’s office and her former staffer who now has his own PR firm, Kris Eisenla. Bob Witeck who is a hero to so many for his work on LGBT issues over the years and Jeff Trammell who always supports any person or cause that can ensure that we will move forward the good of our community. Eminent Attorney Paul Smith and his partner Michael who I had the good fortune of listening to the inaugural address with and so many others like Billy Kreisberg who I first met when he was an intern with Bella and he then went on to be a successful attorney and president of the board of the DCJCC.
The collective work of the people in those rooms at the Mayflower brought us to where we are today and will take us even further. It is my hope that we empower the next generations to continue the work that still needs to be done to achieve our full human and civil rights. It is because of all the heroes at the party that we will see future generations of LGBT people succeed at anything they want to do only limited by how hard they are willing to work. In the next four years we will make great progress. We will ban discrimination in hiring by federal contractors and have an openly gay member of the president’s Cabinet. We will elect an open lesbian as mayor of New York; and God only knows with the work of all the people at the party what other great things are in store for our community that we will be able to celebrate together at the next HRC inaugural party in 2017.