Atlanta gala postponed, HRC takes financial hit over coronavirus

On Saturday, more than 1,000 LGBTQ Atlantans and their supporters were scheduled to toast equality, sport their best formal attire and raise cash in a downtown hotel.

Then coronavirus.

Organizers postponed the 33rd Annual HRC Atlanta Gala & Auction and put on ice one of the largest local LGBTQ gatherings held each spring. With elections in the coming months, the event would have likely drawn scores of candidates and elected officials.

“Like all of us, HRC has continued to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation around the country. The safety and well-being of our community and supporters are always our top priority,” organizers said in a statement posted to the event website.

The postponement is just one more casualty of the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc on LGBTQ events, organizers and business owners in Atlanta since March. Businesses, bars and nightclubs have been shuttered and events have gone virtual.

HRC Atlanta organizers also canceled the group’s annual Bowling for Equality, which would have drawn about 300 people to Midtown Bowl in late March. A series of annual events raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Human Rights Campaign – a fact noted by local organizers as they postponed the Atlanta gala.

“Given the significant financial loss to the organization due to the postponement, we are eager to find a way to reschedule the event. We look forward to bringing our community together as soon as we are safely able to do so,” the organization said.

The financial hit comes as the national organization gets stung directly by the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, HRC laid off 22 employees, cut salaries of its leadership team, converted some full-time positions into part-time, froze its fellowship program and won’t fill two-dozen open positions, according to the Washington Blade. 

“COVID-19 is affecting the nation and no industry or workplace is free from its impact,” Interim HRC Communications Director Nick Morrow told the Blade on Wednesday. “For us, the economic reality is that because of the cancellation of events that represent critical funding streams, the decline of our economy, and our ineligibility for any federal funding, we could not make up this shortfall without impossibly difficult decisions.”

We’ve reached out to Percy Brown and Lindsey Yeargin – co-chairs of the Atlanta gala – for comment and will update this post if we receive a response.

Read more coverage of how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting LGBTQ Atlanta.

Photo of HRC Atlanta Gala on May 4, 2019 by Russ Bowen-Youngblood for Project Q Atlanta and Q magazine.