On Saturday, February 9, two prominent Austinites will be honored at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Austin Gala, "Love Conquers Hate."
The honorees are Dave Steakley, producing artistic director of ZACH Theater who will be receiving the HRC Austin Visibility Award, and Laura Hernandez, executive director diversity marketing, AT&T, receiving the HRC Austin Corporate Equality Award. Steakley and Hernandez are being recognized for their work as outstanding leaders in support of the LGBT community.
As the nation's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, HRC has held the annual gala to honor such outstanding citizens as Steakley and Hernandez and to promote HRC's grassroots actions to elect fair-minded individuals to office and educate the public about LGBT issues.
This year's HRC Austin Gala falls on the weekend before Valentine's Day, giving the event a "love" theme and inspiring the tagline of Love Conquers Hate. The gala will be held in the Four Seasons Hotel main ballroom, starting at 7 p.m. Senator Kirk Watson will serve as the event auctioneer, and guests will have the opportunity to meet Chad Griffin, the new President of HRC.
Steakley is being honored for all that he has given the Austin community in the performing arts but also in creating a venue for important conversations on topics that affect our entire community. “Given that this year marks the first season in the new Topfer Theater and Dave’s 20th anniversary with ZACH Theater this is the perfect year to honor him," says Kathrin Kersten, co-chair of the gala.
Dave Steakley arrived at ZACH in 1991 with a vision of creating a space open to all, a place where Austin's diverse community would find representation and celebration. He has been passionately creating theater by, for, and of Austin ever since, says gala co-chair Heather Beckel Luecke. Under his direction, more than 30 productions with gay themes have been staged, creating meaningful conversations among the entire community on equality.
Throughout the season ZACH hosts its Wilde Parties at every show, special pre-performance social events have become a beloved tradition in the LGBT community. ZACH’s artists, through audience appeals, have raised more than $250,000 for local and national organizations that serve the LGBT population, including AIDS Services of Austin, OutYouth and The Matthew Shepard Foundation, among others. "Because of Dave Steakley, ZACH is a creative and cultural force for good, committed to creative excellence delivered powerfully, genuinely and joyously," Luecke adds.
Part of Hernandez's honor comes from celebrating AT&T's 10th year of successively achieving a 100 percent score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index. “Leading AT&T’s marketing efforts, targeting the LGBT segment, we want to celebrate Laura’s leadership that has helped make AT&T a model for all other Fortune 500 companies in corporate social responsibility regarding diversity,” says Luecke.
As Executive Director of Multicultural Marketing at AT&T, Hernandez says that she is proud to work for a company that sees value in diversity and that advocates equality. "I am deeply grateful to accept this honor on behalf of AT&T. The HRC has proven itself a leader in advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans through education, and by inspiring and mobilizing diverse communities."
Hernandez adds that in its work to safeguard the rights of the LGBT community, the HRC has been a committed champion of equality. "AT&T applauds their continued efforts to improve the lives of LGBT Americans by advocating public support among all Americans."
The 17th annual HRC Austin Gala Dinner takes place Saturday, February 9 at the Four Seasons.