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April 10, 2009

Trinity dean Lind honored with HRC’s highest award

Nexus of faith, justice and LGBT issues is topic at annual dinner

Cleveland--“Don’t hand over faith to those who work against us,” said the Very Reverend Tracey Lind as she accepted the Equality Award, the highest award given by the Cleveland Human Rights Campaign committee at its annual dinner.

Five hundred people turned out for the 16th dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel on March 28. Similar events are held in cities across the nation, including Columbus and Cincinnati, to raise money for HRC’s national operations.

Lind, the openly lesbian dean of Cleveland’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, was recognized for her work on equality and social justice inside and outside the church.

Cathedral council member and gay Cleveland attorney David Posteraro presented the award to her.

Lind spoke about achieving LGBT equality by being good partners with others groups working for justice.

As an example, her Green Team ministry at Trinity promotes sustainable environmental practices, works against the death penalty, and runs a community garden. The cathedral has also hosted the Cleveland chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and is known as a gathering place for people willing to work on social issues.

The themes of LGBT life in faith and justice were echoed by the choice of Harry Knox to deliver HRC’s message to the dinner.

Knox, who was appointed April 6 to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, directs HRC’s religion and faith program.

Denied ordination in the Methodist church because he is gay, Knox has done nearly all his work outside it, speaking out for people marginalized by religious institutions.

Case Western Reserve University president Barbara Snyder and deputy provost Lynn Singer received Leadership Awards for the university’s growing commitment to LGBT students, employees and alumni.

Singer announced that during alumni weekend in October, the university will host its first LGBT affinity event.

Of the university’s strategic plan, Snyder said, “Diversity is the thread that runs through the document.”

Cleveland native HRC staffer Frank November asked diners to join the group’s Federal Club, whose members give at least $100 per month.

The featured speaker was actress Beth Grant, whose film credits include the role of Loretta in the gay cult classic To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

Grant was introduced by her 16-year-old daughter Mary Chieffo, and in a video by the students of the gay straight alliance at Campbell Hall High School in Los Angeles, which Chieffo helped create.

Grant talked about what it was like trying to get press attention while standing behind Ru Paul at the opening of To Wong Foo, and about what it’s like to be a gay icon.

On the way to Cleveland, Grant said, “Airplane stewards recognized me.”

“‘You are a gay icon,’ they said, to which I said, all right!’” Grant teared up a little when talking about her mother, whom she described as a “Southern belle and a civil rights advocate.”

“They aren’t gay rights, they’re human rights,” according to mom’s wisdom, which also included helping a gay man come out at their country club in 1974.

Grant said her mother died shortly after election day, but insisted on voting from her hospital bed, for Barack Obama and against Proposition 8.

Three LGBT students from Kent State attended the dinner, as did a contingent from the Case Western Reserve Law School.

Sovereign Industries, owned by LGBT activist Ken Press, sponsored a table for high school students in an arrangement with the Cleveland LGBT Center.

HRC could not provide exact attendance numbers nor an amount raised by press time, but said the attendance was “about the same as last year’s.”

The estimated 500 was down from the actual record 2007 count of 630. That year, nearly $100,000 was raised, with the silent auction and live auction supplying about one quarter of that.

“Like every advocacy or non-profit operating right now, fundraising is challenging and we sincerely appreciate the generous support from our friends in the Buckeye State,” HRC spokesperson Trevor Thomas said in a written statement.

Thomas was asked how much the Cleveland community might see in HRC assistance to help save the domestic partner registry, which is expected to hit the ballot this fall.

HRC often uses its operating money and staff to help local and state campaigns.

Thomas said HRC’s state legislative director reported “that we’ve been talking to Equality Ohio and to people in Cleveland about ways we can help oppose a possible ballot campaign.”

But Thomas stopped short of making a commitment, adding, “It is my understanding that there is no ballot measure pending in Cleveland.”

Rev. C. Jay Matthews’ coalition of church groups has been gathering signatures and is expected to submit them later this month.

HRC contributed $51,024.56 in 2007 and 2008 to Ohio congressional candidates in cash and in-kind support. The largest recipients were Rep. John Boccieri in the 16th Congressional District and Rep. Steve Driehaus in the 1st Congressional District, both of which won.

In attendance at the dinner were Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Betty Sutton, Lt. Governor Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Ohio House Speaker Armond Budish were there, as were State Senator Dale Miller and Ohio Democratic Party chair Chris Redfern.

The city of Cleveland was represented by Mayor Frank Jackson and councilors Jay Westbrook and Mamie Mitchell.

Lakewood Councilor Nicki Antonio, who is openly lesbian, attended, as did Avon Lake Council President Greg Zilka.

Cuyahoga County judges Mary Jane Boyle, Stuart Friedman and Bridgette McCafferty were among the guests, as was. Cuyahoga County Chief Deputy Sheriff Doug Burkhart.

Senator Sherrod Brown attended the Federal Club event held the night before.

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