HRC’s Out for Equality Gala Celebrates Obama’s Inauguration

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Out for Equality host Ross Matthews (Photo: Akeem Favor)

When the Human Rights Campaign celebrated President Barack Obama’s reelection at its inaugural ball, Out for Equality, on January 21 in Washington D.C., there was much cause for rejoicing. Earlier that day, the President gave a momentous inauguration speech that interwove historic civil rights events with the vision of a nation where fairness and equality were not just words and ideals, but goals to strive toward and achieve.

"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," Obama said in his inauguration speech.

Without a doubt, this quote became the overarching theme of Out for Equality. One of the most invigorating aspects of the event was the clear display of the fact that members of the LGBT community are neither alone nor powerless in their struggle. There exists a network of volunteers, celebrities, advocates and politicians whose combined efforts and passion drive the cause forward.

"Today I saw my President stand up to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, stand up to embrace marriage equality, stand up to say the truth of our people," said Newark Mayor Cory Booker. "That no matter who you are, your color, your creed, your race, your religion, or who you choose to love, you are an American and part of the United States."

New Hampshire Governor Margaret "Maggie" Wood Hassan shared a personal story that, in essence, spotlighted how the President’s call for equality in his inauguration speech connected with other areas of concern for the average citizen, including the economy.

In her story, she spoke of a chance meeting with a man who struck up a conversation with her during a flight regarding her involvement with marriage equality in New Hampshire.

During their conversation the man stated that as a recruiter for one of the state’s largest businesses, marriage equality was one of the best recruiting tools he had available.

In her ending remarks, Hassan gave her own view of the President’s inauguration speech.

"What he was really saying is something our forefathers understood and is something the President talked about today," said Hassan. "What they understood is that we could only be the best we can be, we could only be an innovative strong leading economy, a strong union, if we bring people in from the margins to the heart and soul of democracy. When we do that, we get stronger, we get better, we compete better and we lead."

Out for Equality also featured entertainment by some of the most talented performers in the business.

Performances included a stirring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the Gay Men’s Choir of Washington D.C., "Like a Prayer" sung by the talented and soulful Franchell "Frenchie" Davis, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper, and "A New York State of Mind" by Will Swenson.

The most moving performance of the night was that of five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald. After she sang "First You Dream" and "Over the Rainbow" many of the members of the audience were left in tears.

If equality was the overarching theme of the night, an unscheduled visit from inaugural poet Richard Blanco set up yet another: the search for not only equality but also for a place to feel at home.

"A lot of my writing, my poetry, has always been about culture and negotiation and about trying to find home," said Blanco. "And at this reception I think I just found it."


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