Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Audra McDonald, Diageo to be Recognized at 2018 HRC Greater NY Gala

by HRC Staff

HRC announced that U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will speak, and Audra McDonald and Diageo will be recognized at the 2018 HRC Greater New York Gala on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

Post submitted by Stephen Peters,  former Senior National Press Secretary and Spokesperson

HRC announced that U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will speak and Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winner Audra McDonald will be honored at the 2018 HRC Greater New York Gala on Saturday, February 3, 2018, in New York City. HRC also announced that Diageo will receive the organization’s Corporate Equality Award.

“Senator Gillibrand is on the front lines of the battle against the Trump-Pence administration's politics of hate, fear, and discrimination,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “From fighting back against Trump’s transgender military ban to pushing for LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, Senator Gillibrand stands shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ community as a champion of equality. We are honored to welcome her to the 2018 HRC Greater New York Gala.”

A leader for LGBTQ equality in Congress, Senator Gillibrand has consistently scored a perfect 100 percent on the HRC Congressional Scorecard throughout her time in the Senate. In response to President Trump’s discriminatory attempt to implement a transgender military ban, Gillibrand announced bipartisan legislation to protect currently serving transgender troops from being discharged. She also recently spoke out against violence targeting LGBTQ Americans and the critical need for equality voters to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

Audra McDonald will receive the HRC National Equality Award, recognizing her outstanding efforts in standing up for the LGBTQ community.

“From the Broadway stage to the silver screen, Audra McDonald has captivated and inspired audiences around the globe in a truly profound way,” said Griffin. “Most importantly, she uses her incredible talent to help make the world a better place by speaking out for the vulnerable and the oppressed. We are proud to recognize such a vocal advocate for LGBTQ equality at this year’s Greater New York Gala.”

McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry, as both a singer and an actress. The winner of a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and an Emmy Award, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2015 and received a 2015 National Medal of Arts—America’s highest honor for achievement in the arts—from President Barack Obama. She is a passionate advocate for LGBTQ equality and underprivileged youth. In 2014, she joined the Covenant House International Board of Directors, which oversees programs for homeless and at-risk youth in 27 cities in six countries across the United States, Canada, and Latin America. In 2011, she joined pro-equality marchers in Albany to lobby New York state senators in the days leading up to their groundbreaking vote for marriage equality, and in 2009, she joined Twitter to promote the cause, using the Twitter handle @AudraEqualityMc.

Diageo, a global leader in beverage alcohol with a collection of over 200 brands in 180 countries which include the likes of SMIRNOFF™, Bulleit® Frontier Whiskey, Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Captain Morgan and Ketel One Vodka  will receive the HRC Corporate Equality Award, recognizing the company’s exceptional commitment to workplace equality for the LGBTQ community.

“Diageo has consistently proven their steadfast commitment to LGBTQ workplace equality,” said Deena Fidas, director of the HRC Workplace Equality Program. “Diageo is a leader in corporate policies and practices that embrace their LGBTQ employees and harness the strength of diversity and inclusion. We are proud to recognize Diageo with the HRC Corporate Equality Award.”

Earning the distinction as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality,” Diageo has scored a perfect 100 percent for ten consecutive years on the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) – the national benchmarking tool on corporate LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices. Diageo is an inaugural member of the groundbreaking Business Coalition for the Equality Act and has been an early and active supporter of equality — including signing onto the U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief challenging the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. Additionally, Diageo’s individual brands continually advocate for the LGBTQ community, most prominently SMIRNOFF Vodka, which has supported equality and love in all its forms for several decades. In 2017, the brand launched its limited edition “Love Wins” bottle packaging, which donated $1 per bottle made to HRC. Beyond its brands, the company has eight Business Resource Groups (BRGs) that promote inclusivity, and are a resource for recruitment, retention, employee engagement, innovation and community partnerships. Diageo’s Rainbow Network was one of its first BRGs and remains one of its most active, focusing on LGBTQ employees and allies.

Held for the first time at the New York Marriott Marquis, the Greater New York Gala is one of HRC’s most prestigious events of the year, attracting more than 1,000 of the organization’s most active leaders, supporters, and members. The event regularly draws political officials from federal, state, and local governments, as well as celebrity entertainers and leaders in the business community. To purchase tickets for the event or learn more about ways to volunteer, please visit