Like so many things in this COVID-19-ravaged world, Lambda Legal Houston’s annual Equality’s Night Out gala had to be postponed until next year. Now, the nonprofit group fighting for LGBTQ equality has decided to partner with its Dallas sister organization to provide a statewide online event hosted by gay comedian Dana Goldberg.
We’re Here Texas: A Virtual Soiree for Justice will be streamed on August 27 to update the community on legal issues and celebrate the recent Supreme Court win protecting LGBTQ rights in the workplace. The event is free, with a $50 suggested donation.
“Historically, Lambda Legal has hosted Equality’s Night Out during Pride Month here in Houston,” says co-chair Jeff Watters. “Last year it was [a cocktail event] held at Station 3, and it was a great time of mingling with a diverse group of people. The program included updates [from Currey Cook] on the cases Lambda was handling. [Currey] is a counsel for Lambda and director of the Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project.”
Watters, a Houston attorney who’s been on the organization’s steering committee for four years, is co-chair of the event along with Traci Stonum-Parker from Dallas.
“For my part, I have loved working with our Dallas steering committee, and especially with Traci as my co-chair,” says Watters. “Traci’s son popping up on our video calls planning the event always puts a smile on my face! As with anything [Dallas-related], we have a friendly rivalry going to see which city can raise more money. So for all the OutSmart readers, I need y’all to show up to support H-town and beat Dallas!”
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience,” says Stonum-Parker. “It has given me the opportunity to meet and connect with people in Lambda that I otherwise never would have met. I hope that we will continue to collaborate once we are face-to-face. It would be nice to see everyone in person!”
“Another upside is that the event we put together will be top-notch,” says Watters. “It’ll be a blend of updates from Lambda staff, including our CEO, and stories of the impact that Lambda Legal has made. Lawyers are often seen as dealing with abstract principles and minutiae, so it’s always good to hear from the clients themselves about how Lambda Legal’s work has changed lives, and its real-world impact. I’m also very excited for the special guests we’ll have, both during the event and for the after-party. It’s not every day I get to share a platform with cast members from Queer Eye and RuPaul’s Drag Race!”
Avery Belyeu, South Central regional director for Lambda Legal, notes that the evening will give VIP law-firm event sponsors a chance to speak directly with CEO Kevin Jennings and hear about Lambda Legal’s future goals. “The main event, emceed by comedian Dana Goldberg, will include speakers from across the state, including this year’s recipients of the Partner for Equality Awards. [After] an update about our work from two of Lambda Legal’s clients we’ll have a special message from Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown. At the conclusion of the program, guests will be invited to join an after-party hosted by Alyssa Edwards and featuring performances by Shea Coulee and Kameron Ross.”
It sounds like fun, even though you’ll have to supply your own cocktails. But more than just a chance to socialize safely, the monies raised go toward important civil-rights work.
“The exciting thing about this new format,” says Belyeu, “is that it provides the opportunity for supporters from all over the state—many of whom have never been to our Houston and Dallas events—to join us and show their support. Our goal this year is to raise $315,000 to support Lambda Legal’s essential work. With the support of the community in Houston and across the state, I am confident that we will meet that goal.”
Indeed, there’s still a lot of work to be done before full LGBTQ equality becomes a reality.
“Beyond marriage equality, this year’s Supreme Court decision extending federal workplace protections is just one of the examples of Lambda Legal’s continued work,” explains Watters. “Just this past Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Florida ruled that schools could not ban transgender students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Child rearing and adoptions are another area where LGBT individuals still face discrimination. In June, Lambda was part of a group that argued a case in Georgia challenging the [federal] State Department’s rule that children born overseas to same-sex couples are not automatically citizens. There are many similar pockets of discrimination that Lambda Legal has to navigate, and it continues to press forward.”
And Stonum-Parker also notes how the organization is responding to this year’s racial-justice protests. “With the current racial tensions in the nation, it is very important that Lambda continue to show its commitment to diversity and equity. Not only do they need to show support for queer people of color, but for all people of color [as we] stand in solidarity with the African-American community!”
What: We’re Here Texas: A Virtual Soiree for Justice
When: August 27, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
More info: LambdaLegal.org