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VIEW MORE PHOTOS | 7th Annual Evening for Equality with Georgia Equality

imageA big crowd, a sit-down dinner, silent auction and a list of accomplishments in the past year helped push Georgia Equality to host its most successful Evening for Equality yet on Wednesday in Midtown.

The statewide gay rights group sold about 250 tickets to the upscale event, with nearly 200 people attending. The seventh rendition of the annual fundraiser included a formal dinner and an extensive silent auction, pieces that helped push the total raised to about $22,000 before the event even started at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center.

Proceeds from the silent auction and donations made at the end of the event will push the tally higher, according to Jeff Graham (top photo), Georgia Equality’s executive director.

“It’s the largest Evening for Equality we’ve had to date,” Graham says “Having a sit-down dinner was an added benefit to the event and that helped drive ticket sales. Frankly, it also has to do with the fact that more people are seeing what we can accomplish here in Georgia and want to come and support that.”

imageGraham ticked off a long list of the group’s accomplishments since last year’s fundraiser, including a successful counter-demonstration to a National Organization for Marriage protest in Atlanta last summer, expanding and renovating the Rush Center, speaking out against the anti-gay rant from Braves coach Roger McDowell and meeting with the team in its wake, supporting state Rep. Rashad Taylor in his recent coming out, introducing the Georgia Fair Employment Practices legislation, and working to prevent proposed cuts to the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

“It actually has been a pretty good year for us as an organization and for us as a community,” Graham told the Evening for Equality crowd. “Folks, the time is changing here in Georgia and it will only get better for us.”

Scores of elected officials attended the event, including Fulton Commissioner Joan Garner (second photo) and state Rep. Simone Bell, both lesbians, and former Atlanta City Council Presidents Cathy Woolard and Lisa Borders. Woolard, a lesbian, served as Georgia Equality’s lobbyist at the Gold Dome during the legislative session earlier this year.

imageThe event also honored four progressive activists:

Phillip Rush Community Builder Award: Bill Nigut, southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League

Guiding Star Award: HIV activist Johnny Fambro

Champion for Equality Award: State Rep. Karla Drenner

Allen Thornell Political Advancement Award: Olivia Long, executive director of AIDS Athens