The eighth annual Straight for Equality Gala held by PFLAG National was held in New York City on last week. Actor and comedian Alec Mapa hosted the event, which honored Kristen Chenoweth, Melissa Harris-Perry and Wells Fargo for being “incredible leaders in diversity, inclusion, and equality.”
Mapa, a gay and married father of an adopted son, said he remembers a time before schools had gay-straight alliance clubs like the ones his son will be able to get involved with soon in middle school.
“We didn’t have that,” Mapa said. “Back then, it was called drama club – that was our gay-straight alliance.”
PFLAG, which originally stood for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, was founded in 1972 by a mother publicly supporting her gay son. It has grown into the nation’s largest family and ally organization with over 400 chapters and 200,000 members.
“PFLAG’s work is more important than ever,” Mapa said. “Every time a religious freedom bill pops up or is signed into law, it’s because they don’t know LGBT people. But we’re here, we’re ever-present, we were always here. And when you get to know us, it’s harder to discriminate against people you actually know.
Chenoweth, who was presented with the Straight for Equality in Entertainment award, grew up in Broken Arrow, Okla., said her Christian faith and mother taught her acceptance.
“My friend was called a ‘dyke’ when I was in third grade,” Chenoweth said. “I asked my mom what that meant, and she explained to me that we don’t use that work, that we love people no matter how God made them.”
Chenoweth said she received great advice from her grandmother about religion.
“I read the Bible like I eat fish,” she said. “I take the meat that serves me well, but I don’t choke on the bone.”
Rosie O’Donnell presented her good friend Chenoweth with the award.
“I grew up knowing this: That young girl needs to use her voice,” O’Donnell said in her speech. “A young woman needs to demand equality. Because it will not be given readily.”
Janet Mock presented Harris-Perry with the Straight for Equality in Media award.
“[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,” Mock said. “That is a rare gift. To put it simply, we are smarter because Dr. Harris-Perry exists.”
Harris-Perry brought the crowd to their feet with her speech.
“It’s odd to hear things like ‘LGBT politics are the civil rights movement of our time,” Harris-Perry said. “No, they are all of these, at every point, the civil rights movements of our times: race, sexual orientation, sexual freedom, gender, self-presentation, gender self understandings, labor, immigration status, queer identity.”
Wells Fargo Securities President Jon Weiss accepted the Straight for Equality in the Workplace award.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Edie Windsor, whose lawsuit United States v. Windsor resulted in the Supreme Court ruling getting rid of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, was in attendance. The gala also featured a performance of “Changing My Major” by Lauren Patten from the Broadway musical Fun Home.
The event raised over $90,000 for the organization.
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