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HRC Honors Whoopi Goldberg at New York Gala

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by Winnie McCroy
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HRC Honors retired NY. State Sen. Tom Duane

At a VIP reception preceding the event, HRC paid tribute to the many contributions of former New York State Senator Tom Duane, the first openly gay member of the New York Senate. His 13 years of work included sponsoring marriage equality legislation, SONDA, Hate Crimes Protection Act, workplace protections and the Dignity for All Students Act. Duane also was the only politician of note who has openly acknowledged being HIV positive.

"Who woulda thunk we went from Stonewall to today, and we’ll keep on fighting with HRC leading the way," said Duane, before inviting his own longtime partner, Louis Webre, to share the stage with him.


Endorses NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for Mayor in 2013

HRC also took the occasion of its New York gala to endorse New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn in her upcoming run for mayor of New York City.

"I know the difference HRC made for Senator Tammy Baldwin, Sean Patrick Maloney, for every LGBT member of Congress," said Quinn, who attended with her wife, attorney Kim Catullo. "Being gay is no longer a liability in having a winning vote on the ballot; you have changed the world, and made it into a place where those victories could occur, where we could have an openly gay mayor in the greatest city in the world."


Christine Quinn Looks Back

"Whoopi is a pisser!" added Quinn (either an odd or particularly apt choice of words, given Goldberg’s role as a spokesperson for the incontinence product Poise). Quinn took a moment to thank her colleague (and predecessor in her City Council seat), Tom Duane.

She recalled how he often stood alone in the state senate in speaking up for LGBT rights. Quinn reminisced about how she met Jane Clementi, the mother of gay Rutger’s student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his roommate broadcast his same-sex hookup on the Internet via a hidden camera. Rutgers University recently announced they would open the Tyler Clementi Center for LGBT students.

Also attending the gala were Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.


Gifts from Corporate Sponsors at Auction

The evening raised more funds for HRC through both silent and live auctions.

Silent auction items included a a Courtney Waugh pantsuit, tickets to New York Knicks games, Delta first-class airline tickets, a window treatment design package from Hunter Douglas Design, a five-night stay at the Fairmont Hotel in Southampton, N.Y., a week’s stay in Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Rico, and tickets to the upcoming Broadway show "Kinky Boots."

Corporate co-chairs included American Airlines, Citibank, Diageo, Microsoft, Nationwide, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, Lexus, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Prudential, Deloitte and more. Prudential Financial, Inc. was the recipient of the 2013 HRC Corporate Equality Award.

Auctioneer April Brown animated the crowd with her fast-paced live auctioneering of four premiere items. A first class American Airlines package for a three-night stay at W Hotel South Beach went for $6,000. A $10,000 shopping spree at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams went for $9,500. American Airlines also put up an "Escape to Europe" package: a pair of first-class tickets to Europe, with a three-night stay at a Marriott property, for $2,300.

Goldberg offered two VIP tickets to a taping of "The View," with a meet-and-greet with her fellow cast members. She also offered a inside look at her extensive shoe collection, which went for $5,500. TV personality Tim Gunn spoke about his own tour of Goldberg’s shoe collection, before bringing her to the stage to present the award.

The event concluded with a performance by Broadway, film and TV actor and singer Billy Porter. The after-party had music provided by DJ Joe Mendez, with a performance by dance diva Kristine W., who not only sang and danced but played the saxophone.


For info on upcoming HRC galas throughout the country, visit http://hrc.org/events/

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/


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