LGBTQ Atlanta celebrates equality, honors heroes at HRC gala

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U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath vowed to keep Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in pro-LGBTQ hands on Saturday at the 32nd Annual HRC Atlanta Gala Dinner & Auction.

McBath (photo right) spoke to a crowd of some 1,200 people packed into the Hyatt Regency Atlanta ballroom for the annual fundraiser for the LGBTQ political and civil rights advocacy group. McBath (photo right), who marched in the 2018 Atlanta Pride parade, was inspired to run for the metro Atlanta seat after her son was shot and killed in 2012. She made gun control a central issue of her campaign, and she beat anti-LGBTQ U.S. Rep. Karen Handel to take the seat in 2018.

“Karen Handel showed us who she really is. She led the way on the atrocious child separation policy at our border. And she was still actively working to tear down and undermine the LGBTQ community,” McBath said.

“But the love that I have for my son and for you is what drives me to stand up to people like Karen Handel. The fierce instinct of a mother is why I pledge to you that I will not let anyone else with an extreme and dangerous view take this seat back in Georgia’s 6th,” she added.

McBath’s appearance came three days after she voted for the Equality Act during a House Judiciary Committee meeting. The bill, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect LGBTQ people, passed and now goes to the full House for a vote.

“We have all been created equal, and under the Constitution, we all deserve to live equally in this country without discrimination,” McBath said. “At times such as these, we must stand up and fight back. We have no other option, and I will continue to fight for you.”

McBath was among several elected officials and candidates at the gala on Saturday. Others included former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who is running for U.S. Senate in 2020; LGBTQ state Reps. Sam Park and Matthew Wilson; Alabama state Rep. Neil Rafferty, the first openly LGBTQ member of Alabama’s legislature; Atlanta City Councilmembers Amir Farohki and Antonio Brown, who is the only openly LGBTQ member of the council; LGBTQ Doraville City Councilmembers Stephe Koontz and Joseph Geierman; Mac Sims, a gay Marine Corps veteran running for Georgia House District 163 in Savannah; and Birmingham City Councilmember Hunter Williams. 

HRC President Chad Griffin praised McBath for her support of the Equality Act in his speech, calling her “one of our champions.”

“You are our hero, and we are grateful,” he said.

Griffin (photo left) said about 7 million LGBTQ people voted in the 2018 midterm elections, helping elect “the most diverse, pro-equality Congress in history.”

“Together we sent a powerful message to anti-equality candidates from coast to coast — if you come for us, we’re coming for you on Election Day,” he said.

He called on voters to come out in 2020 to elect a pro-LGBTQ Senate and president. 

“We are truly in the midst of a great awakening of our democracy,” he said. “2018 was proof of what happens when LGBTQ people and our allies organize and turn out to vote, and we’re not about to slow down now.”  

HRC will host a presidential candidate forum at UCLA in October on the eve of National Coming Out Day. 

“We’re not doing all of this because of one weak man with the world’s worst spray tan. We’re not because that really gives him way too much credit,” he said. “We’re doing this for the millions upon millions of LGBTQ people living in a state today without nondiscrimination protections so we can finally make the Equality Act the law of the land.” 

It was Griffin’s final speech at the HRC Atlanta gala as president. He announced in November that he's stepping down in 2019. His successor will be announced in the next few weeks, according to Charlie Frew, an Atlanta resident and vice chair of the HRC Foundation’s Board of Directors.

HRC honored HIV/AIDS activist Daniel Driffin with the Dan Bradley Humanitarian Award. Georgia Alliance for Social Justice received the Leon Allen & Winston Johnson Community Leadership Award. Tony- and Grammy-winning actress and singer Cynthia Erivo received the Ally for Equality Award. Actor, writer and producer Ryan O’Connell received the Visibility Award.

CBS 46 anchor Thomas Roberts, the out former MSNBC star, also spoke at the event. 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and U.S. Rep. John Lewis did not attend. Both sent video messages instead.


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