‘Legends’ to come together for marriage-equality event

Although the red carpet will have already been rolled up and all the little golden statues handed out the previous weekend, New Jersey will host its own Oscar-type party Feb. 28, with glitz, glamour and a wealth of well-knowns gathering to honor individuals and organizations who’ve made significant contributions to LGBT equality over the past year.

Broadway, Hollywood and political legends will unite with New Jersey LGBT advocates for Garden State Equality’s annual Legends Dinner, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at The Palace at Somerset Park, 333 Davidson Ave. in Somerset, N.J.

The event will feature a cocktail and smorgasbord hour, an open bar and a five-star dinner, as well as a silent auction and after-party concert.

Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality, which works to advance LGBT rights, said the dinner will pay tribute to the accomplishments of the group and its supporters, as well as rally LGBT and ally individuals behind the push for marriage equality in New Jersey.

“The dinner has an interesting message. On the one hand, it’s a celebration of our organization’s achievements; in our five years of existence, we’ve passed 204 [pro-LGBT] laws at the state, local and county levels, which is more laws in less time than in any other state in American history,” Goldstein said. “And on the other hand, we’ve got one more law to go — marriage equality — and we won’t rest until we get that 205th law.”

Goldstein noted that he expects about 700 people to attend the dinner, which drew 500 individuals last year and about 300 the previous year.

“That shows you how hot our organization and the cause of marriage equality are right now,” Goldstein said. “To get that kind of a turnout is a real sign of our organization’s growth.”

Out comedian Judy Gold will emcee the event, which will feature appearances by actors Fran Drescher, Judith Light, George Takei and Michelle Clunie. Stage legends Andrea McArdle of “Annie” fame, Marc Shaiman of “Hairspray” and Miche Braden of “Movin’ Out” will also be in attendance.

For the first time, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a marriage-equality advocate, will attend the dinner and address the crowd. Goldstein noted that Corzine’s involvement in the dinner provides an added and integral level of support for the cause of marriage equality.

“The governor has certainly moved into a very strong direction of supporting marriage equality,” Goldstein said. “After the Civil Union Review Commission Report came out in December, he released a very strong statement in support of marriage equality and said he’d sign a marriage-equality bill, and when that day comes when he gets to do that, he’ll be a very happy governor. For us in New Jersey, it’s just the question of when that will be, not if. There is going to be marriage equality in the state of New Jersey, and the sooner, the better.”

Corzine will be joined by other public-service notables such as openly gay New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, U.S. Congressman from New Jersey Steven Rothman and the governor’s former chief of staff Jeannine Larue.

During the event, Garden State Equality will honor the Robbinsville High School Gay-Straight Alliance, which fought for the resignation of a school board member who used an antigay slur, with its Lt. Laurel Hester Prize for Citizen Courage; LGBT student scholarship program Point Foundation with the Visionary Award; Democracy for America-New Jersey with the Pillar of Progress Prize; and Prudential Schering-Plough with the Corporate Equality Award.

The group will give its Loretta Weinberg Prize for Lifetime Achievement to Larue and the Gibbons Prize for Law and Social Change to transgender activist Jacqui Charvet. Rothman and the Gay-Activist Alliance in Morris County will both be inducted into the Equality Hall of Fame.

The tax-deductible tickets begin at $225 and packages, some of which include backstage passes, are available.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.gardenstateequality.org.

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].

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