The Human Rights Campaign held its 10th annual New York gala Saturday night and put the focus on efforts to achieve marriage equality in the state. Headliners included Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo from the Oscar-nominated film The Kids Are All Right.
Moore, who stars with Annette Bening in the Lisa Cholodenko film about a lesbian couple and their family, told The Advocate on the red carpet that she felt cautiously optimistic about the chances for marriage equality in New York this year. She and Ruffalo both appear in videos for the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign, which most recently included former first daughter Barbara Bush.
“I think, you know what, get it together,” said Moore. “I think we will be shocked. We’ll look back at this time and we’ll be shocked historically. It’s going to seem like barbarism the same way segregation did.”
Inside the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom in Manhattan, where video screens displayed the evening’s theme of “No Excuses,” elected officials and advocates sounded even more hopeful, with New York city council speaker Christine Quinn announcing her plan to lobby state senate majority leader Dean Skelos in Albany on Monday ahead of advocacy groups' lobbying effort the next day. The Republican from Long Island pledged during the election not to block another vote of the bill, which has passed the assembly three times but failed in the senate by 38-24 in 2009 with no GOP members voting in favor.
“I will give him all of your personal regards and tell him the Waldorf-Astoria wasn’t even big enough to hold all the people who want him to do the right thing right away,” said Quinn of her visit with Skelos, who does not support the bill.
Also key to the effort is Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who has made repeated public calls for marriage equality this year, although he did not attend the gala on Saturday. Instead, Alphonso David, whom the governor appointed to the new position of deputy secretary for civil rights last month, spoke briefly on his behalf during the cocktail hour.
“Governor Cuomo is committed to making marriage equality a reality in New York this year,” he said.
That goal is aided by the addition in the past year of three senators who support equality, thanks to groups including HRC, the Empire State Pride Agenda, and Fight Back New York that worked to unseat senators who opposed the measure. Currently, 26 senators, all Democrats, support the bill, which needs 32 votes to pass. Bipartisan support is a must in the closely divided chamber where Republicans hold a 32-30 majority and some Democrats oppose the bill.
HRC president Joe Solmonese reviewed his group’s local and national efforts including the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” during his remarks, which followed an introduction by Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir, who told reporters afterward that he is planning a move to New York.
Solmonese said, “The next step in the national journey for all of us is right here in New York. HRC will do everything in our power to play an effective role in bringing marriage equality to New York State very soon.”
U.S. senator Charles Schumer of New York reinforced the push for marriage equality in his keynote address, which was introduced by Brian Ellner, HRC senior strategist in New York. The senator also announced that he was recommending that President Barack Obama nominate out lesbian Alison D. Nathan to the federal bench in the southern district of New York. The president recently nominated J. Paul Oetken to the same court on a recommendation from Schumer.
Moore, a Golden Globe nominee for best actress in the same category won by costar Bening this year, received the Ally for Equality Award from HRC. Ruffalo, an Oscar nominee for supporting actor for The Kids Are All Right, presented the honor.
Earlier, the actor reflected on the red carpet about the social impact of the film.
“There’s an honesty in the film that resonates with people,” he said. “It makes people understand that these relationships and families are no different. I think it’s had a significant contribution to the pro–gay marriage fight.”
A performance by the cast of the new Broadway adaptation of Priscilla Queen of the Desert rounded out the evening.