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By Megan Wadding
The 20th annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Houston Gala will be held on April 1 at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Houston. The black-tie formal event will include a plated dinner with wine and dessert, guest speakers, a silent auction, and entertainment, followed by an after-party with a live DJ, cocktails, and dancing.
The event begins with a VIP Donor Reception for sponsors and major donors at 5:30 p.m., followed by a cocktail reception and silent-auction viewing from 6–7 p.m. Doors open for the Gala at 7 p.m.
Guest speakers at the event include Chad Griffin, president of HRC, who will be speaking about HRC’s national and local plans to work for full equality for the LGBTQ community, according to Josh Beasley, one of the HRC Houston Gala tri-chairs. Lance Bass and his husband, Michael Turchin, will be attending the gala this year, as a guest of Baccarat. According to Beasley, Bass may be part of the program in some capacity. Additional speakers for the evening will be announced closer to the event.
Two awards will be given during the Gala this year. Houston members of HRC’s board of governors and directors selected Britt Kornmann to be honored with the HRC Leadership Award, which, according to Beasley, is given to “champions of the HRC mission who have made a profound mark on the movement for equality.” Monica Roberts was chosen to be honored with the HRC John Walzel Equality Award, which, according to Beasley, is given for “meritorious service in the fight to end discrimination against LGBTQ people and achieve fundamental fairness and equality for all.
“True progress is possible because of their tenacity and dedication to the LGBTQ community,” he says.
The Silent and Live Auction packages are “awesome,” according to Beasley.
“We have original artwork, services including massages and spa treatments, and wonderful items from Neiman Marcus, Baccarat, Design Within Reach, Burberry, BeDesign, Nice Wineries, Jenni’s Noodle House, and other local retailers.”
Some of the bigger packages include a five-night stay at a condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, original artwork by Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau, a $1,500 Nike Sportswear Package, and a $5,000 shopping spree at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
According to Beasley, Houston’s HRC Gala is the single most important event of the year for the organization.
“We have the most focused opportunity to speak to the largest group of our supporters. Being our 20th-year anniversary, this event is very much a milestone,” says Beasley. “[The Gala] gives us the opportunity to share our message of love and acceptance to those who may not be familiar with the organization and how present we are in their daily lives. It also gives us the opportunity to share what HRC is doing both nationally and locally for the LGBTQ community.”
This year, Beasley says they anticipate nearly 1,000 attendees at the Gala.
“[This includes] local business and community leaders, supporters and volunteers with HRC, and individuals who support HRC’s work for equality locally and nationally,” he says.
The HRC Houston chapter, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has been busy so far this year, with recently having launched a local office with the specific intention of working to “combat any anti-LGBTQ bills during the current Texas legislative session, specifically SB 6 [the anti-transgender “bathroom bill”] and like-minded bills,” according to Beasley.
“We have teamed up with Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network, the Transgender Education Network of Texas, and other partners to mobilize in opposition to these discriminatory bills,” Beasley adds.
With the new location downtown, HRC Houston is able to coordinate more activities within the community, including phone-banking, envelope-stuffing, letter-writing campaigns to legislators, volunteer and advocacy training, and community organizing, according to Beasley.
HRC Houston has many objectives for the near future, with the ultimate goal of equality and community engagement.
“One goal is to unite against those who continually try to limit our goal for full equality for all. Another goal moving forward to build our large base of volunteers,” says Beasley. “HRC [Houston] is a volunteer-based organization and does not function without the time and efforts of our volunteer leaders. Essentially our goal is to raise awareness about the work of HRC, show individuals how they can get engaged locally, and raise money to support that work.”
The entirely volunteer-run local steering committee for HRC Houston works tirelessly throughout the year, keeping the goal of equality for all in mind.
All of the events and outreach done by the HRC Houston throughout the year are handled entirely by volunteers on the committee. Together, they tackle numerous projects, while wearing countless hats, and work on a myriad of events, all to lend support to issues that affect the community.
“The fight for equality spans many different avenues. We have committee members focusing on Gala preparations [and] support for local elections for equality-minded candidates,” says Beasley. [They also focus on] protections, both locally and nationally, for all members of our LGBTQ community, including protections for jobs and housing; membership outreach and Pride events; building our relationships with other organizations with hopes of full inclusion regardless of race, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation; and volunteer recruitment, as well as maintaining our donor base and relaying their opinions on the direction of the organization to those in DC.”
Beasley says HRC Houston is very excited to be celebrating 20 years in fight for equality.
“While we know that there will be a lot of work to do in the years ahead, the successes we have made, along with those who worked to make it happen, deserve to be celebrated,” he says.
All proceeds from the event benefit the HRC.
What: HRC Houston Gala
When: Saturday, April 1, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Marriott Marquis Houston, 1777 Walker St.