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'Welcome to our annual convening of the gay Mafia': Equality PAC celebrates 10 years

Equality PAC
Jon Fleming Photography

The political fundraising organization promotes LGBTQ+ elected officials and held its annual gala last week. Here's what went down.

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The fourth annual Equality PAC Gala lit upWashington, D.C.’s Union Station on Thursday night, celebrating a decade of advocacy forLGBTQ+ rights and urging support for queer candidates in the coming election.

The evening began with a spirited welcome from Nina West, a contestant onRuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 9. “It’s exciting. Good evening. Welcome to the 2024 National Pride Gala and 10th Anniversary Celebration,” West exclaimed. “Please celebrate this incredible organization. We’re celebrating wildly.”

West’s humorous and heartfelt remarks set the tone for the evening. West proudly wore a pin honoringHarvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, and Marsha P. Johnson, calling them the “Mount Rushmore of gay people.”

“Look around this room tonight—all these vibrant, bright colors, fabulous cake, all of you in your suits, perfectly coiffed hair, the Botox,” she quipped. She also noted, “Not one bad built butch body here,” a reference to transphobic and homophobicRepublican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Equality PAC Co-Chairs, Reps. Ritchie Torres ofNew York and California’s Mark Takano provided opening remarks.

“Welcome to our annual convening of the gay Mafia,” Torres joked. He announced that the dinner had raised $529,000, contributing to the PAC’s total of over $12 million raised.

Amber Briggle, an advocate and mother of a transgender son, shared her emotional journey, detailing the harassment her family faced from Texas authorities after the governor, Greg Abbott, and attorney general, Ken Paxton, weaponized state agencies against parents of transgender kids.

“Imagine having an agent of the state literally break your heart and enter your home to tear your family apart,” Briggle said. “We chose to stay and fight.”

U.S. Rep. Becca Balint, Democratic Texas state Rep. Julie Johnson, who would be the first lesbian elected to federal office from the South, and U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia, who all co-chaired the dinner, emphasized the significance of ongoing support for LGBTQ+ candidates.

“Supporting our members is crucial,” Garcia said. “We must ensure that Donald Trump does not return to the White House.” He highlighted that half of the LGBTQ+ members of Congress are in tough races.

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, theCalifornia Democrat spoke ahead of presenting an award to allyship named after her that actors Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson received.

“Having an award named after you and giving it to them is pure joy,” Pelosi said.

During the night, the crowd gave an enthusiastic standing ovation toDelaware state Sen. Sarah McBride, poised to become the firsttransgender member of Congress. Earlier in the day, McBride’s primary challenger dropped out of the Delaware race, where she is favored to win in November. Several speakers noted that if McBride wins, she would represent PresidentJoe Biden in the United States House of Representatives.

“We are on the verge of electing the first transgender member of Congress,” Torres said.

House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who has a transgender daughter, and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York closed the evening.

“This is a great country, but we know it was not born perfect,” Jeffries remarked. “We must continue to fight for equality for every single member of society.”

Reflecting on the nation’s journey, Jeffries said, “Those words upon the Declaration of Independence—‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’—were eloquent in their articulation but incomplete in their application. America is a great country, but it was not born perfect.” He added, “We’ve been able to bring life into that concept of equality. We cannot achieve full equality until there’s full equality for every single member.”

Nina West concluded the gala with a dazzling performance of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Am What I Am,” celebrating Equality PAC’s achievements in supporting LGBTQ candidates and allies. “As we all come together tonight to celebrate 10 incredible years, all dedication, successes, and the history you helped make, I want to remind you that the fight for full equality is ongoing,” West said. “We must continue to raise our voices and our checkbooks for those who cannot.”

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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).