Stars Align For Diversity Honors

Inaugural event will benefit Pride Center and Harvey Milk Foundation

At a time when the South Florida LGBT community is arguably conflicted over issues of age discrimination, HIV prevention methods and political activism, the Harvey Milk Foundation and Pride Center at Equality Park seek to cool controversies with an inaugural “Diversity Honors” ceremony Saturday evening at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood.

Stuart Milk, co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, is the event’s presenter. Milk, a global human rights advocate, is expected to deliver an important speech concerning the need for more education, greater acceptance and advocacy for equal rights. In a press release, organizers of “Diversity Honors” state the event’s mission is a collaborative celebration of the achievements of those who have a transformational effect on others by promoting inclusion and acceptance.

Those being celebrated include Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of slain gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard; recording artist Deborah Cox, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Founder Rand Hoch, teenage transgender activist Jazz Jennings, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas, Planned Parenthood CEO Lillian Tamayo, Entertainer Elaine Lancaster and Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis.

The Shepards’ son, Matthew, was brutally murdered outside of Laramie, Wyoming in the autumn of 1998. The young man’s death sparked outrage from the community at-large when news spread of his savage beating by two men. The criminals tied Shepard to a fence and bludgeoned him. Shepard died a few days later at a Colorado Springs hospital. He was 21.

Almost twenty years later, Judy and Dennis Shepard continue to advocate for social justice. Judy penned a memoir in 2009, titled “The Meaning of Matthew,” and she travels the country to raise awareness for the prevention of hate crimes. The same year she published her memoir, U.S. President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

In an interview with SFGN, Judy Shepard acknowledged how times have changed since her son lost his life.

“People are really changing today,” Judy said. “Colleges are filled with students who live with conviction instead of fear.”

Featured performer for the Hard Rock soiree is New York cabaret singer Joey Arias. A heralded performance artist for more than 30 years on the New York music and club scene, Arias is scheduled to take the stage at 7 p.m., May 9. The New York Daily News has proclaimed Arias as a “…romantic, post-modern, transgender wonder.”

Arias will be accompanied by a special performance from Cirque Dreams. Tickets for “Diversity Honors” are $150 per person, which includes a seated dinner and cocktails. Black tie is optional and valet parking is available.

For more information, call 954-463-9005 or RSVP at

On Monday, the Harvey Milk Foundation is joining with The Center in Orlando for a “Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast” honoring Central Florida leaders of equality and justice at the Orlando Museum of Art. The breakfast, featuring Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Circuit Court Judge Bob LeBlanc, begins at 8 a.m., May 11. Tickets are $45. For more information, visit

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