By Cornelius A. Fortune
WARREN – The Michigan Human Rights Campaign 2005 Gala Dinner Evening of the Stars was held Saturday, Nov. 12 at Andiamos Celebrity Showroom in Warren. A crowd of about 400 gathered for the event. The dinner included an awards presentation and was headlined by comedian Joan Rivers.
The 2005 HRC Equality Award was presented to the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project for its work in the community.
“It was a sad day in Michigan when voters approved writing discrimination into our state’s constitution, prohibiting same-sex marriage,” said Jay Kaplan, who accepted the award on behalf of the ACLU. “Although the proponents of Proposal 2 said that this amendment was only about marriage, after the election, they argued that it had much broader implications. But rest assured, we will continue our fight to insure our families and our relationships do count.”
“As a Marine Corps veteran, the model (of) ‘God, country and Corps’ is front and center to me,” said Kenn Bing, Michigan HRC board of governors. “Every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered person — each of us is a different person — but we all have a common cause to see equality reached by continuing to be front and center against those who choose to discriminate against us.”
The George M. Fadiga Award was presented to Richard Chizmadia, a local activist and HRC board of governor emeritus, who has served 15 years with the Michigan HRC.
Joe Solmonese, president of HRC, talked at length about discrimination, the gains of the LGBT community and his experiences as president of the national organization.
“It has been a great privilege and an honor to lead HRC in these last six months. I’ve traveled to 22 states across this country and I have gained a much better sense of the richness and the diversity of the community,” said Solmonese.
Solmonese noted in his speech that 5.6 million Americans now go to work in companies where LGBT employees receive opportunities, benefits and respect.
“This is a good moment in time,” he said. “Do we have an army of opponents working against us? Sure. But guess what? The other side is a mess — Hurricane Katrina blew the lid off of compassionate conservatism. So our job is to march right through that breech together — together we deliver results — together and only together — we help America reach the full promise of equality for all its citizens.”
“We can each play a major role in making this vision a reality,” said Michelle Brown, Michigan HRC board of governors. “First and foremost, is to be out with your family, your neighborhoods and at work. Tell your story and encourage others so that when we speak it is with one voice. The vision Joe has outlined will only succeed if we build upon the beautiful diversity of our community. The far right has flexed its muscles; it’s time we flex ours. Together, we can.”
Keynote speaker, transgender activist and author Donna Rose spoke about the difficulties faced by the community in a world that has yet to fully embrace its existence.
“There are those who would say that there really is no GLBT community. In the past it has often seemed like GLB plus T, or maybe GLB and T when it’s convenient,” said Rose. “There’s more to community than a bunch of letters thrown together — more than simply some level of shared characteristics. It’s a feeling of togetherness, a feeling of being a part of something bigger, and that’s fundamental to our overall success as a community as we move forward to address the critical issues that affect us all.”
It is, she said, an incredible time to be part of the LGBT community.
“We are changing the world — not only for ourselves but for generations who will come after us. We are creating a legacy of courage and freedom that are fundamental to why this country came into being in the first place, but has somehow gotten lost by those who would preach hate and discrimination in the guise of morality. Certainly, it isn’t easy. Good things don’t come easy. But, in the end, the right things will happen. And as we celebrate them — we’ll celebrate them together.”