NEW YORK CITYApril 5, 2014PFLAG National last night held its eighth annual Straight for Equality Gala at the New York Marriott Marquis. Straight for Equality—a nationwide outreach and education project created by PFLAG Nationaleducates, engages, and empowers allies to advocate for and support people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer ( LGBTQ ).
This year's honors went to Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth, speaker/author Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, and Wells Fargo.
Actor/comedian Alec Mapa once again hosted the evening, and was joined onstage by auctioneer Mark Schenfeld who—thanks to donations from Marriott International, American Airlines, and the Tony Award-winning 2015 Best Musical FUN HOME—helped raise over $90,000 to benefit PFLAG National's many programs, including Straight for Equality.
Others appearing on stage included FINRA Chairman and CEO, Richard Ketchum, and Wells Fargo Securities President Jon Weiss, who was on hand to accept the Straight for Equality in the Workplace honors, and spoke about the importance of diversity and inclusion at Wells Fargo.
"In the last few weeks, Wells Fargo became the largest employer in North Carolina to call for the repeal of the recently passed anti-discrimination ordinance. I am very proud to say that this declaration for inclusion and against discrimination came from the very top of our organization. Diversity and Inclusion is one of our five primary values of Wells Fargo and is a business imperative for the company." Weiss introduced an acceptance video from Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO John Stumpf.
Honoree Chenoweth—an outspoken LGBTQ ally of faith—spoke about her Oklahoma roots, and how her family, including her conservative, religious grandmother, influenced her. She recounted asking her grandmother why some believed that people who were gay were going to hell. Said Chenoweth's grandmother, "I read the bible like I eat fish. I take the meat that serves me well, but I don't choke on a bone."
Rosie O'Donnell, who was in attendance with her son Blake, presented the award to Chenoweth. Said O'Donnell of her friend Chenoweth, "Not only is she the most amazingly talented individual I've ever known, she is without a doubt the most lovingly honest, fully open-hearted human being I've ever met in my life."
Best-selling author and tv host Janet Mock presented the inaugural Straight for Equality in Media honors to Dr. Harris-Perry. She shared, "[Dr. Harris-Perry] invited people who are so often silenced yet talked about and discussed, to be the experts of their own lives on national television. That is a rare gift." said Mock. "To put it simply," she added, "We are smarter because Dr. Harris Perry exists."
Harris-Perry gave a moving speech, bringing the audience to their feet at the end when she spoke of her former MSNBC show, saying "I'm sorry that we are gone, but I promise you we will keep trying to bring these voices and to elevate these stories...I promise you that we will continue not to be allies, but to be family, to be citizens, and to be co-workers in the work of equality, now and forever."
In addition to the awards, the gala included a particularly moving performance of the song "Changing My Major," by Broadway performer Lauren Patten, both from the 2015 Tony Award-winning Best Musical FUN HOME.
Images from PFLAG National's 2016 Straight for Equality gala can be found at WireImage: http://www.wireimage.com/search/#events?q=&s=3.
Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the original family and ally organization. Made up of parents, families, friends, and allies uniting with LGBTQ people, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education and advocacy. PFLAG has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities and rural areas in all 50 states. To find out more about PFLAG National's programs and services, please visit us at www.pflag.org .
Straight for Equality is a project of PFLAG National. It was launched in 2007 to invite, educate, and engage allies to have the discussions necessary to move equality forward for their gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and queer friends in simple, nonpolitical ways. Learn more at www.straightforequality.org today.