Last week, Lambda Legal hosted its West Coast Liberty Awards, an event honoring those who have made significant contributions toward the advancement of the organization’s vision of equality. Hosted by ’N Sync alumnus Lance Bass, the occasion honored actor Justin Bartha for his portrayal of a gay dad and husband in NBC’s The New Normal as well as NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo for his outspoken support and advocacy of the LGBT community.
Celebrating the organization’s 40th anniversary, the ceremony was particularly momentous, as it occurred on the eve of a Supreme Court decision that could determine the fate of same-sex marriage in California and the nation. To mark the occasion, The Advocate spoke with many of the public figures in attendance, including Greg Louganis, Liz & Dick’s Grant Bowler, Scandal’s Dan Bucatinsky, True Blood’s Janina Gavankar, and more, who shared stories and insights into the public — and personal — fight for equality.
Grant Bowler – Liz & Dick, Defiance
“A human being’s value is not determined by what they believe in, who they worship, who they love. Those are individual human rights that are sacrosanct. And they have nothing to do with intrinsic value.”
Dan Bucatinsky — Scandal
“[I’m proud of] the shoes that I get to walk in, in 2013. As much of a hike as we still need to make in those shoes, we still have a boulder to push up a hill, but I feel very, very proud to represent who I am, honestly and authentically, both on television and in real life publicly. And that’s something I didn’t dream of when I was being picked on as a 13-year-old.”
Greg Louganis (right) with fiancé Johnny Chaillot
“When you win an Olympic gold medal, you’re usually pretty young. And you’re thinking, OK, is this it? Is this the pinnacle of my life? And I have so much more life to live.
And I think what we’ve all come to the conclusion of, is there’s a certain spiritual aspect of that, whether it be being in service, whether it be helping another person. … One of the blessings for me [are the] hurdles to cross — those are my gems, because those allow me to be able to relate to other people.”
Rex Lee — Entourage
“It’s clearly against the laws of humanity to deprive people of [the right to marry]. It’s a … human right. It’s not something you should legislate away.”
David Dean Bottrell — Justified, Boston Legal, And the Band Played On
“I’ve been a big supporter of [Lambda Legal] for a long time. They’ve been in business … 40 years now protecting our rights in the workplace, protecting the rights of HIV people, and really spearheading the campaign for marriage equality. They couldn’t be more important to our community.”
Lance Bass – ’N Sync
“Lambda Legal has been doing this for 40 years right now — way ahead of its time. And just to know that, right around the corner, the Supreme Court can make all their hard work come true — that’s something. I’m proud of all the community’s done over the past decade to get us here today.”
Janina Gavankar — The L Word, True Blood
“When I was 13 years old, my best friend at the time came out to me. ... And me, with my 13-year-old attitude, said, 'You know, you’re not the only one. You know this is a nonissue, right?’ And he tearfully said to me — I could still cry about it right now — 'You don’t understand that the only thing I want in this life is to get married and have children and have a family.’ And that changed me forever. And the fact that there is still any 13-year-old out there thinking that is atrocious. … [To them, I would say that] there is support for you if you need it. Just reach out.”
Justin Bartha — The New Normal
“Now, our show was at times criticized for being too preachy and possibly having an agenda. This may be true. I mean, the title was The New Normal.
But playing this character made me realize that sometimes you have to be preachy. … Sometimes you have to knock them over the head with your message. Because the fact that we live in a country celebrated for freedom, yet almost half of its citizens are still fighting against equal rights, means that subtlety obviously isn’t working.”
“At the end of the day, love is always going to win the game.”