HRC Honors Whoopi Goldberg at New York Gala
More than 900 guests gathered at Park Avenue’s Waldorf Astoria hotel on the evening of Feb. 2 for the Human Rights Campaign’s Make Equality Count Greater New York Gala Dinner.
HRC awarded the Ally for Equality Award to actress and long-time gay rights activist Whoopi Goldberg. Other highlights of the evening included appearances by Barbara Bush, Angelica Huston, Tim Gunn and Kristine W.
"I want to talk you all out of getting married," said Goldberg, conceding that after three failed marriages, she had given up on the institution. "You all have scared the shit out of legislators, because they realize that you are not playing. You are not taking this anymore, and I’m so glad to be part of this thing that’s happening. I’m thrilled to be on this ride with you. The community is like a beacon of light, and we are all better for it."
Actor Tim Gunn introduced Goldberg to the stage. As is her wont, Goldberg was dressed in an odd ensemble: a black balloon dress with black-and-white striped socks and green sequined pumps. She gamely addressed the audience about her outfit, which she described as "a circus tent. Seven people are in this dress with me. I’m wearing my favorite socks, and my favorite shoes, and I’m with my favorite people."
In presenting her with the award, HRC President Chad Griffin cited her "public support of marriage equality, including taking part in our successful New Yorkers for Marriage Equality video campaign in 2011. Whoopi is always willing to stand up for our community and is a longtime friend of HRC."
Goldberg was not the only megawatt celebrity in attendance.
Enter glamorous actress Angelica Huston, chic in black. "I’m often asked what was my favorite character to play," Hustonsaid as she opened the evening’s stage show. "But being on stage here with you and fighting to make a difference is the greatest role I’ve ever played."
Referencing the charitable work of her father, director John Huston, she added, "HRC believes every child born into this world should have equal right and equal chances to live in a world without stigma, fear, ignorance or bigotry barring the way."
First Daughter Barbara Bush
"Tonight’s theme is Make Equality Count, and that is what tonight is all about," said event co-chair Jo Doyle. Event co-chair John Rivers thanked the steering committee and the 100 volunteers.
Also on hand was President George W. Bush’s daughter Barbara Bush, who has come out strong for marriage equality. "When Proposition 8 passed in California four years ago, Chad found two courageous couples to challenge it in federal court at a time when few others were willing to take up that fight," Bush noted. "Today, that case is before the U.S. Supreme Court and he brings that same passion to his work at HRC. He has logged nearly 70,000 miles in his work for equality, and he’s not done yet. He has inspired me with his vision for the future."
From Stonewall to the Waldorf Astoria
"The modern movement for LGBT equality began 40 blocks from here, at Stonewall," said Griffin. "This off-the-beaten-path hole in the wall was a sanctuary, a place where LGBTs could find community, a safe haven from a world that wanted nothing to do with us. The LGBT movement was born fighting, and four decades later, we have never stopped fighting, and we have never looked back. Stonewall was a ripple of hope that turned into a mighty current that carries us today."
Griffin spoke about the rebellious spirit of the gay men, lesbians and transgendered patrons of the storied bar who decided that night that they would no longer shoulder the weight of discrimination and memorably fought back. He noted President Barack Obama’s reference to Stonewall in the struggle for civil rights in his inaugural address last month.
Griffin spoke of Edie Windsor, who is a plaintiff in the challenge to DOMA that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Windsor sought the case after the death of her long-time partner resulted in a massive $600,000 estate tax bill that would not have been charged had the couple been legally wed. He also talked about Alameda, Calif., couple Chris and Sandy and Los Angeles couple Paul and Jeff, who are plaintiffs in another seminal court case, against California’s Proposition 8.
"This March, they will have their day in the U.S. Supreme Court, and in the balance is more than an appeals judgment," Griffin said. "Those judges will capture a snapshot of our struggle. I hope they will strike down DOMA and Prop 8 once and for all."