By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor
On Saturday, Aug. 12, HRC San Diego held its sixth annual gala dinner and auction at Hotel del Coronado. It was the second gala in two years hosted at the Hotel del, and the first since the Trump administration took office in January.
Widely supported by the national Human Rights Campaign (HRC) organization, as well as the Los Angeles Chapter of HRC, the event was a great success, and titled RISE, focused on themes of resistance, unity and the continued march forward to full equality.
Just hours before the assembly, a race-fueled riot had broken out during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when white supremacists — wearing military-style gear and carrying Nazi and Confederate flags, guns and other weapons — clashed with anti-racist counter-protestors.
A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed and 19 others wounded when a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer from Ohio — in Charlottesville specifically for the “Unite the Right” rally — drove his car into a large group of counter-protestors. The man was photographed the night before during a pre-rally march of white nationalists carrying torches across the University of Virginia campus.
In a statement, HRC “strongly condemned” the rally and violence that took place in Charlottesville.
“Hate and bigotry must never be met with silence or half-hearted rebukes,” said HRC president Chad Griffin, who later attended the gala in San Diego. “The horrific events unfolding in Charlottesville today are a stark reminder that the racism and white supremacy that has been allowed to fester for generations has recently been emboldened by the policies and rhetoric of politicians like Donald Trump. There are no two sides. Donald Trump’s refusal to clearly condemn white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the ‘alt-right’ is a failure of leadership and once again proves he is unfit to serve. All national leaders, from the president and vice president on down, must explicitly and unequivocally condemn this violent extremism.”
The events in Virginia were definitely on the minds of all in attendance that evening and the comments of many speakers no doubt served to soften concerns and embolden the attendees.
HRC San Diego co-chairs for the event were Tessa Cabrera and Clarione Gutierrez, who also acted as emcees for the program.
Griffin, former Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning, Katy Segal of “Married With Children,” Assemblymember Todd Gloria and state Sen. Toni G. Atkins spoke during the program. Also in attendance was Sheriff Bill Gore.
Receiving the “Ally for Equality” award, Segal told the crowd she was “honored” and “humbled” to be considered an ally of the LGBTQ community. She called the event “very eye-opening” and shared that despite her father being a director in TV and film, she, too, experienced discrimination when first embarking upon a career in television.
She was repeatedly told by casting agents that she would “never make it in television” due to her looks and her voice. Segal said all that changed when openly gay casting director Tammara Billik, a longtime HRC board member, cast her for “Married With Children,” a quirky hit TV show that “changed the course” of her life.
Receiving the “National Leadership” award was the first openly gay Secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, who served under President Barack Obama.
Fanning was a grand marshal in San Diego’s San Diego Pride Parade in 2016, something he called “one of his greatest memories.”
Fanning focused his remarks on the impact of President Donald J. Trump’s recent tweet about banning transgender service members.
“… I’m offended that the commander in chief would say thousands of people under his command, serving today, around the world — many in harms way — are a burden,” Fanning said. “… Furthermore, he said that transgender service is disruptive. I don’t know what he means by that … the only thing disruptive is his tweet. It would be disruptive to the thousands who are serving and it would be disruptive to military readiness.”
The former secretary said we heard similar rhetoric during “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and when combat roles were opened up to women, but he was encouraged by the bipartisan support he saw from both sides of the aisle in response to the president’s tweet.
HRC has been fighting for LGBTQ equality for 37 years. Some of the civil rights organization’s many programs include tracking and fighting anti-LGBTQ leaders and legislation; managing the HRC Corporate Equality Index, which thousands of businesses and cities across the nation use to monitor and better their treatment of LGBT employees; working to educate the public and move forward issues surrounding transgender equality; advocating for HIV and AIDS programs and legislation; and supporting HRC Global, which works to call out American organizations that export hate to other countries.
Segal told the crowd she had joined HRC’s Federal Club, a long-term donor program that starts with a minimum of $100 per month. Many others also became Federal Club members that evening, including Sen. Atkins, who received the “Leader for Equality” award.
HRC San Diego had a fundraising goal of $5,000 for the gala, but raised $12,350 in pledges over the course of the evening, which broke the event’s record.
Presenting sponsors for the lavish dinner and awards ceremony held in the historic hotel’s grand ballroom were Blue Shield of California and Care1st Health Plan. The event’s diamond sponsor was BD; platinum sponsors were Sempra Energy and Chase Bank; gold sponsors were US Bank and Diageo Smirnoff; silver sponsors were Century 21 Award, Mintz Levin, Youngs Market, and Seaglass wine; bronze sponsors were Marsh & McLennan Agency, Sycuan Casino, Spacelink and Image Source.
The VIP reception and silent auction took place in the Crown Room and was sponsored by Alaska Airlines. Named for its glass chandeliers in the shape of crowns and featuring a 30-foot wood dome ceiling reminiscent of a boat keel, the Crown Room has hosted presidents and celebrities dating back to Old Hollywood.
HRC San Diego’s steering committee includes 17 people, but with a variety of fundraising and promotional events throughout the year, the committee is always looking for new members and volunteers.
—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.