Candis Cayne kisses Constance McMillen as Wilson Cruz looks on.
The GLAAD Awards ceremonies are known for bringing out and honoring gay and gay-friendly celebrities. And there were plenty of those at the 21st annual event in Los Angeles Saturday night -- including Drew Barrymore, the cast and creator of Glee, Wanda Sykes, Adam Lambert, Johnny Weir, and hosts Candis Cayne and Wilson Cruz.
But the heart of the evening came when two women who have reluctantly become activists in recent years took the stage at the Century Plaza Hotel.
Elke Kennedy, the founder of the group Sean's Last Wish, spoke to the 2,000-person strong audience about her son Sean, who was killed outside a Greenville, S.C., bar in 2007 as a result of a antigay attack. Because there were no federal laws covering hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation at the time of Sean's murder, his killer served only a little more than a year in prison. The crowd came to its feet when Kennedy reiterated the importance of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, signed into law late last year by President Obama, and when she explained the role the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has played in helping her speak out about her son and the foundation that bears his name.
Constance McMillen gained notoriety earlier this year when officials at her Mississippi high school first told her she couldn't bring her girlfriend to prom and then canceled prom to ensure that she didn't. "I didn't expect all of this to happen," she said, as she came onstage Saturday night to a standing ovation. "All I wanted was for me and my girlfriend to go to prom."
McMillen was at the event to introduce Wanda Sykes, who was honored with group's Stephen F. Kolzak Award. Always one for a laugh, Sykes first thanked McMillen upon accepting the award and then said, "You're changing the world [by being out and open in Mississippi]. Mississippi? I wouldn't even tell people that I was black in Mississippi."
Click here for a full list of GLAAD Award winners and check back on Advocate.com on Sunday afternoon for video coverage of the Los Angeles event. A full report of the GLAAD Awards ceremonies in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco will be featured on an upcoming episode of The Advocate On-Air.