HRC Blog

RECAP: The 16th Annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner

This post comes from HRC Communications Intern Nick Gumas:

cory booker hrc dinner

(c) B. Proud/ HRC

Saturday night, HRC hosted the Sixteenth Annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner at the Washington Convention Center, here in Washington, DC.  The night was an incredible celebration of the momentous victories and achievements we’ve made over the last year, and an opportunity to recognize some of the people who have made these achievements possible.  Notable guests included Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Academy Award-winning actress Sally Field, Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, NAACP President & CEO Ben Jealous, and screenwriter Dustin Lace Black, who won an Oscar for his film “Milk,” based on the life of the legendary Harvey Milk.  

The dinner seeks to both honor those who have contributed to our movement, but also highlight the importance of what we’ve yet to achieve.  Mayor Cory Booker perhaps best summed up the sentiment when he boldly stated, “The call to freedom is still loud and hard because we still live in a nation where some people want to deny the rights of others.”  He continued, “You cannot deny the rights, freedom, and liberty of others without diminishing your own.  This is what we must understand.” 

judy rolfe hrc dinner

(c)Judy Rolfe/ HRC

Later in the evening, HRC presented the amazing Sally Field with the Ally for Equality Award.  Her speech focused on her role of being the proud mother of a gay son, who, like many LGBT people, struggled with coming out.  Field noted, “Sam was different, and his journey to allow himself what nature intended him to be was not an easy one. As his mother, I consider it one of the great privileges of my life to be part it."  She concluded her acceptance speech by thanking HRC and everyone in the room for advocating on behalf of LGBT people like her son.  “You all have fought for him as surely as you were one of his parents. You've changed and are changing the lives of little boys and girls who realized somewhere along the way they're just different from their other brothers and sisters.”

The NAACP and its president, Ben Jealous, were honored with the National Equality Award for their steadfast support for LGBT equality, including their public support for same-sex marriage earlier this year.  Mr. Jealous stated that the issue of marriage equality hit close to home for him, noting that his parents were forced to move across state lines to get married in 1966, because interracial marriage was banned in their home state of Maryland at the time. 

The event also marked Chad Griffin’s first National Dinner as president of HRC.  He took the opportunity to point out the advancements that the movement has made, such as the support of marriage equality from both President Barack Obama and a majority of Americans.  However, Griffin cautioned, “We have accomplished so much, yet we have so far to go.  We can’t get comfortable thinking that this historic progress is enough, for the gains we made are not felt equally across this country.  For every loving and committing couple celebrating their equality and marriage, many more are denied that opportunity by their state even by their own neighbors at the ballot box.”

jesse tyler ferguson hrc dinner

(c)B. Proud/ HRC

Other highlights of the dinner included remarks from the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against California's Proposition 8, Dustin Lance Black sharing his moving coming out story and urging people to stay involved in the fight for equality, Jesse Tyler Fergusson announcing a contest in partnership with HRC to win dinner with him and his Modern Family costar, Eric Stonestreet.  Click here for more photos from the event, and be sure to check back soon for more information on next year’s National Dinner, along with other upcoming HRC events across the country!

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