Hundreds of attendees of all stripes came out dressed to the nines March 30 to socialize and do a little partying for one reason: pay tribute to the current group of honorees at the fifth Diversity Honors celebration.
The event at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood – the event’– took place inside a decked out ballroom with drag queens, dancers, shirtless men in suspenders and dozens of tables decorated for a fancy sit down dinner.
On one end of the room was DJ/producer Alex Ferbeyre spinning tunes and preparing for the after party with Debby Holiday. On the other end was the stage where guest host Jamie Guirola of NBC 6 would introduce speakers and honorees.
Diversity Honors is a collaboration between the Harvey Milk Foundation and The Pride Center at Equality Park.
The festivities began with a surprise visit by Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida’s 23District.
“It is a pleasure to join my sisters and brothers in the LGBTQ community,” she said, reminding the audience that she was a founding vice chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.
Wasserman Schultz recognized Miriam Richter of the Harvey Milk Foundation and Pride Center CEO Robert Boo with certificates of Special Congressional Recognition.
She noted that Richter was part of achieving the establishment of domestic partner benefits in cities in South Florida, including leading the passage of same-sex partnership benefits legislation in Fort Lauderdale. She also lauded Boo’s leadership at the Pride Center, noting its increase in annual operating budget, expansion of programs and services and addition of employees over the years.
Stars of the night
Florida Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch, whose District 22 encompasses the city of Wilton Manors, was an honoree for serving as one of the vice chairs of the Equality Caucus, like Wasserman Schultz, and also for pushing the Department of Health and Human Services to reinstate sexual orientation demographic questions as part of their national survey of older Americans in 2017.
“This event reminds us that equality in America is something that all of us have been promised,” Deutch said. “It’s been promised since the founding of our country and yet it has still not fully been realized. What we’re doing here tonight, all of us together, especially as we come together here to mark trans[gender]-visibility awareness, is that it’s so important to see that inequality in our country cannot be allowed to go on.”
Phil Wilson, who served as AIDS coordinator for the city of Los Angeles from 1990 to 1993 and was the director of policy and planning at the AIDS Project in Los Angeles was honored, as was Tony Lima, executive of ’s Values for Everyone), a longtime advocacy organization.
Wilton Manors – second gayest city
The Alan Schubert Award of Excellence (Schubert was the founder of the Pride Center who died in 2016) went to the Wilton Manors City Commission.
Wilton Manors is only the second city in the U.S. to have an all LBGT commission – Palm Springs, California, was the first.
Boo mentioned that Wilton Manors was also previously named the second-gayest city in the U.S. after San Francisco.
“If you’ve ever strolled down Wilton Drive during our annual Wicked Manors Halloween street festival where 25,000 people are in some of the most over the top costumes, you might wonder: What does the first-gayest city look like?” Boo said to chuckles in the audience.
Boo also mentioned the city’s perfect scores of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’
“Why does it matter that Wilton Manors has an all LGBT-plus city commission? Their success encourages every LGBT kid aspiring to leadership or public service,” Boo said.
Headliners of the night
Stuart Milk, the nephew of Harvey Milk, who was assassinated 41 years ago, gave out two awards; one to Meghan McCain and the other to U.S. Army Captain Jennifer Peace and U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Patricia King
“It’s sometimes difficult to follow in family legacies,” Milk said. “Meghan has created a maverick legacy all her own. She has been absolutely relentless and steadfast as a champion of LGBT rights,” he said, adding that McCain had been an early supporter of same sex marriage and gay adoption.
“Meghan’s voice was instrumental in repealing ‘’t ask, don’t tell,’ and in supporting transgender family members,” Milk said. He said she and her mother, Cindy McCain, were also two of the early supporters of the NOH8 Campaign.
Milk presented McCain the Harvey Milk Foundation Lilla Watson Medal.
“When I was first told that you guys were going to give me this award, I actually made my agent call Stuart back to make sure they wanted to give it to a straight Republican women in this climate,” said McCain, the daughter of former Sen. John McCain and a co-anchor of the TV show The View. “I wanted to make sure you guys were OK with whatever blowback you might get. You guys called me back and said: ‘We know exactly who you are.’”
McCain said the award was personal to her for many reasons.
“I became an LGBT advocate the way I think a lot of straight allies do, simply out of love for my friends,” she said.
McCain dedicated the award to her hairdresser of 10 years who was in the audience – Josh Rupley.
She said Rupley had supported her through many tough stretches of her life and career, including the death of her father, with the advice of: “Bitch you’re Meghan McCain and you’re going to walk the walk.”
“Whatever I have given to this community, the LGBT community has always loved me back at a time when I feel like my party doesn’t, when I sometimes feel like the world doesn’t,” McCain said. “But for whatever reason the LGBT community has given me so much love back. I am eternally grateful.”
The final honorees were Peace and King who received the Harvey Milk Foundation Valor Award. The two have been lauded for their public resistance to the Trump Administration’s attempt to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.
The two recently testified before Congress and have gotten attention from national and international media outlets.
“They have put themselves in the public world not only to change hearts and minds, but to save young people who are questioning their gender identity and their future,” Milk said.