In an elegant backdrop of tuxedos and gowns, Austin showed up in style to demonstrate its support for the HRC, a nationwide nonprofit that backs lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans right to live their lives proudly and openly. Men and women of every sexual orientation were in attendance to raise funds that go toward increasing the influence of the HRC in legal matters including marriage equality for gay men and women.
HRC President Joe Solmonesse spoke on behalf of the recent strides in the GLBTQ community — including the overturn of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) and marriage equality in seven states — as well as the continued battles ahead. Solmonesse announced this would be his last visit to Austin with the HRC as he was stepping down as the President after seven years of service.
Guest speaker Reichen Lehmkuhl, reality star and GLBTQ activist, shared about his involvement with the HRC especially during the battle to repeal DADT. As a student at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Lehmkuhl faced discrimination and assault because of his sexuality, which he details in his autobiography, Here's What We'll Tell Them.
The night's honorees included Austin City Councilwoman Randi Shade and her partner, co-chair of Ausitn PRIDE, Kayla Shell, who were awarded the Bettie Naylor Award for their tremendous work as role models and mothers. The two women shared their recollections of the amazing woman for whom the award was named, an early pioneer of equal rights in Central Texas. "She fought for our rights before many of us were even born," Shade announced fondly. "So let's remember how one person can change the world."
The night's recipients of The HRC Visibility Award, partners and owners of Austin's L Style G Style magazine, Alisa Weldon and Lynn Yeldell, shared that message of remaining true to one's self and living proudly. Having recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of their popular magazine, which highlights the contributions of out members of the gay and lesbian community in Austin, Weldon and Yeldell are living their message every day.
"It's our responsibility to be a face for our community," Yeldell encouraged the electrified room. "We cannot sit back and wait for others to take action. Let's keep changing hearts and changing minds."