The Equality Florida 2011 Miami Gala was our best yet with over 250 enthusiastic equality supporters in attendance.
Political, community and faith leaders, including many straight allies, gathered to celebrate this past year's victories in South Florida and across the state and recommit to the work ahead.
By the end of the evening our generous supporters had helped us surpass our goal raising over $100,000 to support our work!
Special thanks to The Webster, our spectacular venue for this year's event, and to their team at Caviar Kaspia who put out a sumptuous spread for our guests. Brown-Forman, our beverage sponsors, kept the drinks flowing all night - including the "Passion for Equality," a new creation of their talented mixologists. And to all of our corporate and individual sponsors whose heroic giving put us over the top.
Ellen Freidin of Fair Districts Florida was our first honoree, and was presented with the Voice of Equality Award for her tremendous leadership in passing Florida's redistricting amendments. Fair Districts is probably the single most important ingredient to ensuring politicians in Tallahassee begin to support the LGBT community in the same numbers our neighbors already support us.
George Sheldon, our second honoree and immediate past director of the Department of Children and Families, spoke passionately about voting against the ban more than 33 years ago as a legislator and issuing the memo that formally ended its enforcement at DCF.
The biggest roar of the night was reserved for one of our true hometown heroes, Elizabeth Schwartz, honored for her unstoppable passion in fighting for our families. As Executive Director Nadine Smith said in presenting the award - Liz Schwartz cell phone is on speed dial for so many of us working across this state for full equality. Whether to resolve a crisis or find inspiration - when we are in need Liz is always there.
The evening would not have been possible without the passion, time commitment and energy each of our host committee members, led by our steering committee. Thank you all! (And anyone interested in joining next year's committee should email firstname.lastname@example.org - we'd love to have you on the team).
Because of the great success of the Miami Gala, we will have the funding necessary for full-time staff in Tallahassee essential for lobbying for equality and blocking attacks on our community during the ongoing legislative session. We will have the tools to communicate and mobilize pro-equality voters to deliver the margin of victory for our champions. And we will have the resources our Gay Straight Alliance Network training for student leaders in Miami Dade and across the state.
Thank you, Miami, for making all we do possible!