On Saturday May 1st PFLAG honored Liza Minnelli at the Straight for Equality Awards Gala. Liza! (don’t you think her name should always be followed by an exclamation point?) was presented with the 2010 Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award, recognizing her lifelong role as a gay icon—oh sorry, I meant Straight Ally of the LGBT community.
Caroline Rhea emceed, running around the banquet room at the Marriott Marquis in her stockings, joking that if her Spanx blew she’d take out the first row with nylon shrapnel. She was the cutest, armed with self-deprecating humor and enough dick jokes to keep the bids high at the live auction, and I’m sure auction host "Amazing Race IV" winner Reichen Lehmkuhl’s chiseled jaw and perma tan didn’t hurt. Lehmkuhl’s jaw line is lost on me, but he won this lesbian’s heart when he got the entire audience to drink a toast in honor of his recently deceased cat.
Straight for Equality, in case you haven’t been keeping up, is a project of PFLAG National to encourage, educate, and empower straight allies to speak out for their LGBT friends and family. By bestowing honors on celebrities and businesses who make an effort to eradicate injustice around them PFLAG shows our straight allies how much of a difference their voices and efforts can make. It’s a brilliant idea; think about the people around you who harbor no prejudice, if all of them made an effort to say so and declare their support we could drown out the hateful rhetoric coming from the homophobes and the far right.
It’s not enough to be an ally, anyone who believes in equal rights
for all people is obligated to publicly fight injustice. Individuals who believe in social justice but don’t speak out because they fear backlash from their community are themselves part of the oppressed. Their right to espouse their own beliefs are curtailed by the same hatred that legislates gays and lesbians into second-class status. Think on that for a while.
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It just so happens that Straight for Equality took place on the same night as the car bomb scare in Time’s Square. Lucky for us Liza! kept us entertained with a little impromptu performance. Not kidding, the diva stopped in the middle of her acceptance speech to sing an a cappella selection from her forthcoming CD "Confessions." I felt pretty awesome until I found out she’d also given an impromptu performance -- to which I was not invited -- in her dressing room before the show. Wouldn’t you just die?
This year’s Straight for Equality in Business Award went to Sodexo. The company has earned the highest rating for diversity and inclusion in a national survey. Dr. Rohini Anand accepted the honor, recounting a story in which Sodexo received hate mail for their efforts to create LGBT equality at the company. Her speech was so heartfelt and authentic I teared up.
Other companies honored were American Airlines, AOL, Campbell’s, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, and the New York Stock Exchange. The Straight for Equality in Sports Award went to New Orleans Saints NFL player Scott Fujita. “Love is love,” he said plaintively during a video appearance. Fujita noted that because he plays the macho sport of football, straight guys will listen to him talk about LGBT rights. He added, “When it comes to this fight, I think, ‘Should I shut my mouth and just play football, or stand up and fight for something?’ I’d rather fight for something.”
Tell your pals and family to check out PFLAG’s Straight For Equality program and encourage them to speak up. More information can be found here: Straight for Equality
Photo Credit: Broadway World (also find more great photos from the event posted on their site!)
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