Greater Philadelphia HRC Gala will raise funds for LGBTQ equality

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HRC’s 2019 Greater Philadelphia Gala Photo: Facebook

The Greater Philadelphia Human Rights Campaign Gala (HRC) will take place on Feb. 29 at the Loews Hotel. As one of the biggest LGBTQ+ fundraising events in Philadelphia, this annual dinner honors and acknowledges the steps the organization has taken toward achieving LGBTQ equality and recognizes local LGBTQ leaders. 

Tri-chairs of the 2020 Greater Philadelphia Gala Tom Rogers, Elizabeth Balcom and Marissa Barnathan, all shared similar sentiments that this year’s gala bears particular importance for LGBTQ communities as HRC members engage in campaign work ahead of the presidential election. 

Balcom and Rogers serve as members of the HRC National Board of Governors, and Barnathan works as political action and community engagement (PACE) board liaison for the HRC. All three are part of the Greater Philadelphia HRC Steering Committee. Rogers identifies as a gay man, and Balcom identifies as a pansexual member of the LGBTQ community. 

“The 2020 Human Rights Campaign Greater Philadelphia Dinner kicks off a year of GOTV for equality throughout Pennsylvania,” Rogers said in an email. “The 2020 presidential election is a crucial race, and coalition-building will be key to our success. While HRC volunteers are already on the ground canvassing and campaigning, the dinner energizes and unites the LGBTQ+ community-at-large.“

Balcom pointed out that Pennsylvania will play a pivotal role in determining election results.

“Pennsylvania remains one of six priority states for HRC in this election cycle, and the organization is investing significant staff, resources and time to support our local work to elect pro-equality candidates in 2020,” she said in an email. “Flipping our state blue has the power to fundamentally change the outcome of the 2020 election — on both a local and federal level — and the policies that will shape our state and country for years to come.” 

Viet Tran, deputy press secretary, rapid response for the HRC, echoed these thoughts about the gravity of the funds the gala will provide to support LGBTQ equality work on a large scale.   

“As we head into the most important election of our lifetime, HRC is working hard to mobilize 57 million Equality Voters -— LGBTQ voters and allies — as a part of our movement, who will make a significant difference in the 2020 election,” Tran said in an email.  

This year’s gala will honor actress Caitlin Kinnunen of the Broadway show “The Prom,” as well as Morris Home, the only residential substance abuse recovery program in the country geared toward transgender people. Kinnunen is known in part for kissing “Prom” co-star Isabelle McCalla at the 2018 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the first LGBTQ kiss in the history of the parade. Kinnunen will be recognized as an HRC Visibility Honoree and Morris Home as the Greater Philadelphia Honoree. 

The evening will feature live auction host and comedian Dana Goldberg, as well as a performance by Broadway vet Frenchie Davis. Guests can also partake in a silent auction, to which hundreds of donors contributed.  

HRC President Alphonso David will be speaking at the event. 

“I am incredibly excited to support Alphonso David’s leadership at HRC,” Balcom said. 

As the first person of color and civil rights lawyer to serve as HRC president, David has done important work for the organization in his short time there. He created programs such as the Trans Justice Initiative, challenged anti-LGBTQ bills and policies locally and internationally through impact litigation, enhanced the organization’s work surrounding transgender rights and services and collaborated with Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight, to help bolster the Voting Rights Advancement Act, Balcom explained. 

“HRC’s future under Alphonso’s leadership gives me great hope,” she said. “I’m excited to welcome him back (he’s a Temple Law grad after all!) to Philadelphia and to show Alphonso what Philly brings to the table.”

Lead corporate sponsors of the gala include Boston Consulting Group, Morgan Lewis, Duane Morris, Comcast, The Campbell Soup Company, the Philadelphia 76ers  and other businesses and organizations. 
The gala will take place on Feb. 29 at the Loews Hotel at 1200 Market Street in Philadelphia.