PFLAG National last night held its fourth annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. Straight for Equality — a nationwide outreach and education project created by PFLAG National — educates and empowers straight allies to advocate for and support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people.
Honored this year were Broadway stars Audra McDonald (THE GERSHWINS' PORGY AND BESS, PRIVATE PRACTICE) and Will Swenson (PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT, HAIR), who received the Straight For Equality in Entertainment award, Pastor Jay Bakker, who received the inaugural Straight for Equality in Faith Communities Award, and KPMG CEO John Veihmeyer, who accepted the Straight for Equality in the Workplace Award on behalf of the firm.
Chris Hayes (UP WITH CHRIS HAYES/MSNBC) hosted the evening, and was joined on stage by multi-talented Tony Award nominee Gavin Creel (HAIR), who not only provided the evening's entertainment, but also stepped upalong with his Broadway Impact co-founder, Tony Award nominee Rory O'Malley (THE BOOK OF MORMON)to handle a lively auction of packages donated by Marriott and Whirlpool. Others appearing on stage included New York City Deputy Mayor for Government Affairs and Communications, Howard Wolfson, and Metropolitan Community Church Founder Rev. Troy Perry.
Each of the evening's honorees has been a leader in their field, blazing a trail as straight allies to the GLBT community. In presenting the Workplace award to KPMG CEO John Veihmeyer, Wolfson said that KPMG knows that "…it's good business to value your employees, it's good business to value your customers, and it's good business to attract the best people to your companies."
Rev. Perry, who presented the award to Pastor Bakker, shared his views on the importance of PFLAG's 40 years of work saying, "Back in 1977 when the GLBT community was preparing for its first-ever meeting at the White House, I insisted that the President of PFLAG be there. I wanted a mother in the room…and that mother was like a tiger! Thank you PFLAG!" Bakker, clearly moved by the honor, offered up a heartfelt promise, "I want to see the church become a safer place… I hope to see the church change. On my watch, I will work to see that faith, hope, and love are restored to all people."
McDonald (whose fiancé Swenson delivered a pre-taped acceptance speech from backstage at BETTE MIDLER'S PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT THE MUSICAL) accepted her award with daughter Zoe by her side and "fairy godfathers," Andy and Bobby, in the audience. About her "surrogate dads" McDonald said, "They are quite literally my parents…they teach me every day what it means to be compassionate, to be humane, to be graceful, to know the true meaning of love…." About her reasons for actively taking up the fight for GLBT equality, McDonald quoted author James Baldwin, saying, "'My grandfather gave you his time, my father gave you his time, I have given you my time. How much time do you need for your progress?' That says it all."
Also announced at the event? Care with PRIDE, a new partnership between Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens, and PFLAG National, designed to build broader awareness about the importance of PFLAG and its mission to cultivate respect for human diversity, as well as its advocacy of safer schools for all children and the urgent call to end bullying. A minimum $200,000 was pledged by Johnson & Johnson to support PFLAG's work.
Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the original ally organization. Made up of parents, families, friends, and straight allies uniting with LGBT people, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education and advocacy. Now entering its 40th year, PFLAG has more over 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 straight individuals to have the discussions necessary to move equality forward for their gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender friends in simple, nonpolitical ways. Learn more at www.straightforequality.org .