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NAACP ex-chair, Broadway star to attend HRC Utah Gala

In addition to honoring outgoing Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese and incoming Chad Griffin, the annual HRC Gala welcomes civil-rights leader Julian Bond and Broadway star Gavin Creel, who will perform. The dinner will be held June 9, 5:30 p.m., at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

Bond is a politician, educator and writer. While attending Morehouse College in Atlanta during the 1960s, he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He went on to serve as the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was also elected to four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and to six terms in the Georgia Senate, serving a combined 20 years. He was chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1998 to 2010.

In a 2007 speech celebrating Martin Luther King Day, while serving as the head of the NAACP, he said, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.” Bond’s support of queer rights has led to conflict within elements of the NAACP against religious groups who oppose gay marriage, mostly within the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Creel is a Broadway and West End veteran and has been nominated for two Tony Awards. Some of his roles included Jimmy Smith in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jean-Michel in La Cage aux Folles and Claude in Hair. He will take the lead role of Elder Price in the summer touring production of The Book of Mormon.

Griffin began his political career at the age of 19 in the communications office for the Clinton White House administration. After two years he moved to Los Angeles where he ran a charitable foundation for director and actor Rob Reiner. Griffin was tapped to spearhead the effort to stop Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage. After it passed with 52 percent of the vote, Griffin and Reiner challenged the initiative in federal court, a move originally opposed by most established gay rights groups.  The ban has been overturned in a federal and appeals court. Griffin, 38, will take the helm of the HRC on June 11, just two days after the dinner.

“He’s passionate about our equality and more importantly, has a proven track record of consistently delivering results. Already, the fight to overturn Prop. 8 has prevailed in two federal court rooms,” Solmonese said in a press release. “Chad Griffin has the leadership qualities critical to propel our movement for equality forward and I am so proud that he will succeed me this June in leading HRC.”

With a $40 million annual budget and a staff of 150, the HRC is often recognized as the most influential queer rights organization in the nation. President Barack Obama has spoken twice at its fundraising dinners and the organization has pushed for various gay-rights advancements that have occurred including same-sex hospital visitation rights and federal hate-crime legislation protecting queers.

For more information, go the the HRC Utah website.

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