Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin appeared on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Show” Tuesday morning to talk about the historic inclusion of gay rights in President Obama’s Inaugural address and the ceremonies. Mitchell has known Griffin since Griffin worked for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in Hope, Arkansas:
Monday night, HRC threw one of the many “unofficial” Inauguration balls celebrating the re-election of President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden – the “Out for Equality Ball” – at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel. Perhaps not since the upstart election of pro-gay President Bill Clinton and the first HRC Inaugural “Victory” Ball (during which Melissa Etheridge came out) in January 1993 and the Democratic-heavyweight “Thank You” party for David Mixner also that week has there been such an exhilarating sense that hope after Obama unexpectedly highlighted equality for gays and lesbians in his historic Inaugural address.(Out Sen. Tammy Baldwin at HRC gala Jan 21, 2013. Photo courtesy HRC)
“What a remarkable day this was,” Tammy Baldwin, America’s first out US senator said from the stage. “I have to tell you I was so struck in the passage about going from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall. All of us working so hard to advance true equality, but all woven into the same fabric of our American story.“
“There’s no doubt this White House gets it,” Fred Sainz, HRC vice president for communications and marketing, told The Hill. “And this president is completely supportive of LGBT rights. Today’s speech is rhetorically incredibly important, but we can never forget there is so much work to be done before our community really achieves total equality. We’re making tremendous progress, but the road ahead of us is long.”(From his position on the platform, HRC President Chad Griffin watches President Obama take the Oath of Office. Photo courtesy HRC)
HRC President Chad Griffin, who had a great vantage point of the swearing in from his position on the platform, noted in a statement after the Inaugural speech:
“President Barack Obama made history today by connecting the lives of committed and loving lesbian and gay couples fighting for marriage equality to this nation’s proud tradition of equal rights for all. Moments after swearing to uphold the Constitution for all Americans on Bibles owned by Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Obama declared passionately that our national journey towards a more perfect union cannot be finished until equal protection under the law extends to each and every American regardless of who they are or whom they love.
“By lifting up the lives of LGBT families for the very first time in an inaugural address, President Obama sent a clear message to LGBT young people from the Gulf Coast to the Rocky Mountains that this country’s leaders will fight for them until equality is the law of the land. As the merits of marriage equality come up for debate from state houses to the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a broad majority of Americans are standing up for liberty and fairness, the President’s unequivocal support for equality is a clarion call that all Americans should receive with celebration.
“We were honored that the President included Stonewall among the historic events in American history that have made our union stronger. Its inclusion is testament to the valiant contributions of LGBT Americans past and present who seek nothing more than to be treated equally by the country they love.”
(HRC President Chad Griffin (rt) with legend Eiie Wiesel and OutServe’s Jonathan Hopkins. Photo courtesy HRC)
Griffin said on his Facebook page that his “seat mate” for the Inaugural ceremonies was the legendary Holocaust survivor and witness Elie Wiesel. (I’ll post Griffin’s remarks at the gala as soon as the video is available.)
Ironically, without knowing the kind of poem gay poet Richard Blanco would offer or that Obama would include gay people in his Inaugural remarks, Griffin sent out this letter to HRC supporters about the Day of Service as part of the celebration:
In a 2008 speech, then-Senator Barack Obama described how answering a call to serve his community helped him come to better appreciate his place in American society. “Through service, I found a community that embraced me, citizenship that was meaningful, the direction that I’d been seeking,” Obama told the crowd. “Through service, I discovered how my own improbable story fit into the larger story of America.”
As we celebrate President Barack Obama’s second inauguration this weekend, these words are fresh in the minds of the Human Rights Campaign family. This year’s inaugural festivities coincide with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and HRC is joining millions of Americans across the country in giving back to the communities that made us who we are.
One of HRC’s top priorities is building a brighter future for LGBT youth. As recently as 2010, LGBT young people made up between 20 to 40 percent of homeless and at-risk youth. This is an epidemic that disproportionately affects members of our own community. That’s why HRC and its steering committees are partnering with 30 pro-equality corporate and non-profit allies to support the efforts of 10 organizations that serve LGBT homeless and at-risk youth across 9 cities. If you’re interested in taking part in this nationwide effort, check out this dedicated page to find an organization in your area.
After all, each of us has benefitted from the life-changing service of others. Whether it’s a friend who offered encouragement during the coming out process, an employer who fought to create an open and welcoming workplace long before it was popular, or a faith leader who never hesitated to provide an affirming place of worship, the kind gestures of others can make a truly profound difference in each of our lives precisely when we need it most.
Now it’s time to pay that service forward. As Dr. King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Through service, we allow ourselves a moment to reflect on what binds us to each other, and in so doing we discover the meaningful citizenship that President Obama described.
I can think of no more profoundly American way to celebrate the inauguration than that. As we continue working to change the way that our own stories fit into the broader garment of American destiny, please join us in taking this weekend to give back to those who need it most.
Have a great weekend,
President, Human Rights Campaign
Also in attendance at the ball were out elected Reps. Mark Takano (D-CA) – first gay Asian in Congress and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz) – the first out bisexual, as well as out Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Newark Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, MSNBC host Chris Matthews, actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family,” actress Kate Walsh of “Private Practice,” and comedian Ross Matthews.(Legend Cyndi Lauper sings at “Out for Equality” gala. Photo courtesy HRC)
Five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, Tony Award nominated actor Will Swenson, Broadway star Frenchie Davis and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C all performed. But the real show-stealer was longtime LGBT ally, True Colors Foundation co-founder and pop legend Cyndi Lauper – who was introduced by Viola Davis, Academy Award nominee for “The Help.”
HRC is holding their annual LA Dinner Gala on March 23 at the Ritz-Carlton/JW Marriott at LA LIVE. They have not yet announced their honorees – but please note that the gala is THREE days before the US Supreme Court takes up the Perry Prop 8 case – which was spearheaded by the American Foundation for Equal Rights co-founder Chad Griffin.