With scores of celebrities, trailblazers, advocates and countless Atlanta gAy-listers, GLAAD Atlanta raised funds and celebrated equality on Wednesday. Even gay NFL jock Michael Sam made a surprise appearance.
Nearly 250 people attended the evening – held at the Estate, a Buckhead event space from Tony Conway's gay-owned Legendary Events. It also served as the kickoff for GLAAD's new Southern Stories program, an effort in Georgia and five other states to tell the stories of LGBT people and their struggles in the South.
"Nothing builds acceptance and understanding like the power of storytelling,” GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a press release. “As legal advances for equality continue to sweep the nation, it’s now more important than ever that we redouble our efforts to move hearts and minds. GLAAD Southern Stories will help reshape the narrative about equality in the American South, where LGBT people and families are an integral part of the cultural fabric.”
But the evening was bigger than that. It also honored Atlanta activist and politico Paul Horning with the GLAAD Champion Award. And it called out several people on the front lines of LGBT equality in Georgia, including anti-bullying advocates David and Tina Long, transgender high school student Sage Lovell, employment non-discrimination advocate Brian Martin and LGBT homeless activist Daniel Pierce.
David and Long sued Murray County High School in 2010 after their 17-year-old son committed suicide after relentless anti-gay bullying at the school. The family's struggles were chronicled in the documentary "Bully."
Lovell was elected in early October to the homecoming court at Walton High School, becoming what is believed to be the state's first transgender student picked for the honor.
Pierce is the gay Georgia teen who was disowned by his family in a violent confrontation as they attempted a "pray away the gay" intervention in August. He recorded the incident and the video went viral and has since been viewed more than seven million times. Pierce was helped by Lost N Found, a non-profit that cares for homeless LGBT youth. On Wednesday, Lost N Found announced that it added Pierce to its board.
The event on Wednesday also included several celebrities and national LGBT figures, including GLAAD's Ellis, actor and GLAAD national spokesperson Omar Sharif, Jr., Weather Channel anchor Sam Champion and his artist husband Rubem Robierb, actor Wilson Cruz (top photo), singer Frenchie Davis, comedian and "Chelsea Lately" regular Fortune Feimster, and actors Kat Graham and Eva Tamargo.
Cruz is no stranger to Atlanta. He's been feted at past GLAAD events here and arrived this summer thanks to his role with Fox's "Red Band Society." And some shirtless clubbing.
Sam, working to become the NFL's first openly gay player, was a crowd favorite. Fans kept asking for photos and he received a standing ovation when Ellis introduced him. His boyfriend, former collegiate swimmer Vito Cammisano, also attended.
GLAAD Atlanta is no stranger to crowning LGBT friends and champions. In November 2013, it honored WSB anchor Jovita Moore and Reese McCranie, the gay communications director at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. And it's annual fundraiser is always a big draw.