January 1, 2015

Now in its seventh year, PFLAG National's Straight for Equality Gala honors and celebrates some of the most powerful straight allies who are changing the world for our LGBTQ loved ones through their work. The awards each year focus on areas key to moving equality forward, including the workplace, faith communities, entertainment, literature, sports, education, and more. 

PFLAG National Board
President Jean Hodges
with Emcee Alec Mapa
Photo: D. Dipasupil/Getty

This year the event was held on Monday, March 30th at the New York Marriott Marquis on Times Square. Receptions where guests could network and meet PFLAG National staff, board members, and regional directors were followed by dinner, the program, and a live auction conducted by talented auctioneer CK Swett. This year's gala co-chairs were James White,a member of the Americas Diversity & Inclusion team at Credit Suisse, and Patsy Doerr, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility and Inclusion for Thomson Reuters. Both organizations were in attendance, and Credit Suisse had a team of volunteers on hand to make sure the evening went off without a hitch.

Marriott International
CEO Arne Sorenson
Photo: D. Dipasupil/Getty

Marriott International received the Straight for Equality in the Workplace Award. A worldwide hospitality leader, Marriott has shown its commitment to LGBTQ equality in countless ways. The company consistently scores 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, is a prominent member of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and was among the first hotel leaders to offer same-sex partner benefits beginning in 1999. In 2012 Marriott launched the “Be You, With Us” campaign and in 2014 they launched the award winning #LoveTravels campaign featuring Jason Collins, Geena Rocero, and Marriott staff. Furthermore, Marriott has championed LGBTQ employment nondiscrimination as well as marriage equality at the state and federal level. This year, the award was presented by Jim Brett, the CEO of West Elm, and it was accepted by Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, a passionate ally, on behalf of every associate of Marriott International. Sorenson spoke powerfully about Indiana’s newly passed “license to discriminate” law.

“The legislation in Indiana (and there are some bills being considered in other states) is not just pure idiocy from a business perspective, and it is that. The notion that you can tell businesses somehow that they are free to discriminate against people based on who they are is madness.”

From the stage, PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby also praised the work of PFLAG Indiana State leader Annette Gross, who has been leading the charge against RFRA on the ground. "We have accomplished a tremendous amount, but there is just as much—if not more—left to accomplish. Challenges to meet—like defeating the more than 80 anti-LGBT bills that have been introduced in the states since January 1, so that we don’t have 79 more Indianas. And for those of you who may not realize it, I must let you know that the rally of protesters 3000-strong in Indianapolis over the weekend was organized by local PFLAG mom Annette Gross!" Another PFLAG mom, board member Marsha Aizumi, took the stage to share the ways PFLAG has helped her family over the years since her son came out as transgender. She joined Wells Fargo Foundation leader, and longtime LGBT organization champion Tim Hanlon, who also praised the work of PFLAG and its Straight for Equality project.

Honoree Jill Soloway
Photo: D. Dipasupil/Getty

The Straight for Equality in Entertainment award was given to Jill Soloway, the creator of Amazon Studios’ Golden Globe winning show, Transparent, and a writer and producer for the HBO Series Six Feet Under. She is known for creating dynamic LGBTQ characters that help viewers understand the intricacies of family, sexuality, and gender. Additionally, in her work she strives to make diversity and inclusion more than a buzzword and to create a working environment where no one on her staff or crew feel “otherized.” The award was presented to Jill by Allyson Robinson a human rights activist who has worked for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and OutServe-SLDN.

In her acceptance speech--which she dedicated to her "Mapa" (her name for her father who three years ago disclosed that she is a transgender female)--Soloway talked about the power of PFLAG, and the powerful action of love.

"It's really quite amazing what you can achieve through love.  Love is the most powerful action in the world. I say the word 'love' as a verb...feelings can come and go, but love the verb can be done no matter what. Love the verb changes people."

Honoree Henrik Lundqvist
Photo: D. Dipasupil/Getty

Finally, the Straight for Equality in Sports award was given to Henrik Lundqvist, goaltender for the New York Rangers, who is also known as “King Henrik” by the New York media and Rangers fans nationwide. He is an outspoken straight ally in the sports world and has made headlines for years for his vocal support of the LGBTQ community and marriage equality. He strongly supports the NHL’s partnership with You Can Play, a nonprofit dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in sports. He also worked with PFLAG National partner USA Network to create his own “I Won’t Stand For” video to combat bullying in schools. He also regularly reaffirms that he would support an openly gay teammate without question. The award was presented to him by former MLB player Billy Bean, who is openly gay and now serves as the Ambassador for Inclusion for the organization.

Overall it was an incredible evening, with emcee Alec Mapa at the helm and bringing the funny. We look forward to celebrating again next year with more incredible allies!

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