Leaders in South Florida’s march for equality gathered together Saturday evening at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Awards were given and attendees enjoyed a fine-seated dinner while being entertained by top notch performers.
“Our differences are going to be honored tonight,” said Stuart Milk, the nephew of famed LGBT icon Harvey Milk.
And those differences were, with official recognition going to multiple individuals for their commitment to diversity.
Those honored included Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of slain Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard, Billboard chart topping recording artist Deborah Cox, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Founder Rand Hoch, teenage transgender star Jazz Jennings, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas, Planned Parenthood CEO Lillian Tamayo, South Beach entertainer extraordinaire Elaine Lancaster, Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis and South Florida Gay News Publisher Norm Kent.
“It says something important about who we are as a community here in South Florida,” Milk said of the honorees assembled. “It says that we will continue to recognize and award those that have brought us together, that we will highlight the extraordinary individuals and individual acts that affirm life and humanity.”
A total of 350 people attended the plate dinner on the Seminole Reservation in Hollywood, Fla. Many of the guests were fitted in black tie attire, including U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-21) and event host Craig Stevens, anchor for WSVN’s News 7 Team.
New York cabaret singer Joey Arias was the featured performer. Arias, a transgender entertainer, took the show into the audience for interactive bits, asking Stuart Milk’s mother, “Can I kiss you?”
Milk was all smiles Saturday evening as he introduced honorees and welcomed attendees into the ballroom. The founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation said he was glad to share proceeds raised from the evening with his “amazing” partner, Pride Center at Equality Park and “incredible” sponsor, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
“Our shared vision is coming into reality tonight,” Milk said. “To once a year set aside an event which provides distinguished recognition of people who have made our entire community stronger, more just, more humane and more enlightened.”
Few speeches were given from the honorees; the Shepards did mention they were in the minority as Democrats living in Wyoming.
“We’re tokens,” Judy said. “When we leave they always ask when we’re coming back.” Dennis was particularly brief, “Matthew was not my gay son. He was my son who happened to be gay.”
Milk said the strength of the couple to continue on after the brutal murder of their son was a sign of greatness.
“We recognize the great ones who can get up after an unimaginable darkness, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to ensure to that such darkness does not happen again anywhere in the world.”