Actress Jennifer Beals and the Honorable John Berrythe highest-ranking openly gay member of President Obama's administrationheadlined the 2012 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) gala, held Oct. 20 at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park.
Best known for her roles in Flashdance and The L Word, Beals was named the 2012 Ally for Equality. The actress-cum-human rights activist, who entered to a rousing standing ovation, was poised, articulate and funny as she accepted the award.
"It is so important that we all have each other's backs," Beals said. "It is my pleasure to use my voice, heart, and mind to empower the community, and I long for a day when the ally award will be obsolete."
The Chicago native recalled going to dinner with her husband while filming The L Word pilot. At one point, he leaned over and kissed her.
"I realized then that if we were a gay couple, this event would have been very important… and it hurt my heart," Beals said, tearing up. "It spoke not only to my sense of otherness, but also to my sense of being marginalized as a woman, because homophobia is, after all, a form of misogyny. And I, for one, will be damned if someone thinks it is somehow elevating to be confined to a binder."
Reelecting Obama was a prevalent theme during the black-tie fundraiser, which included dinner and a silent auction. HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse offered opening remarks.
Berry, who has served as director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management since 2009, closed the evening with an impassioned speech on workplace equality and political progress.
"In America you should be judged by one thing only: How well you do the joband nothing else," Berry said. He received a standing ovation.
Glee actor Alex Newell, who stars as transgender performer Wade "Unique" Adams, performed two songs. The openly gay performer danced with attendees and graciously signed autographs all evening.
The Corporate Equality Award went to Kraft for its Rainbow Council, which works to create an LGBT-friendly work environment. The Little City Foundation, a foster care and adoption agency, received the Community Equality Award.
Kyle Klatt and Marisa McCabe co-chaired the gala.
Notable guests included: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-5), state Rep. Greg Harris (D-13), Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, Ald. Joe Moreno (D-1), and Cook County Water Commissioner Deb Shore.
Also please see "Photo coverage: Human Rights Campaign gala brings out the crowd" photos by Kat Fitzgerald, at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Photo-coverage-Human-Rights-Campaign-gala-brings-out-the-crowd/40030.html