5 reasons to attend the HRC Arizona’s annual gala

The 11th annual event promises everything from auctions and awards to celebs and celebrations

By Liz Massey, Feb. 26, 2015.

As spring temperatures warm the Valley of the Sun, the LGBT social calendar is heating up as well.

Here are our top 5 reasons that HRC Arizona’s 11th annual gala, which will take place Feb. 28 in the Sonoran Sky ballroom of the Arizona Grand Resort, is the prefect event to kick off the busy season of fundraising ahead.

1. The Doctor Is In

Ramirez (color)The event will be headlined by an appearance by actress Sara Ramirez (pictured), who will accept the organization’s Ally for Equality Award. Ramirez, who is straight, plays lesbian physician Dr. Callie Torres on the long-running television series “Grey’s Anatomy.”

2. Honoring Equality Pioneers

As part of the event, awards will be presented to Bobbi Lancaster, a Valley physician who was one of the first transgender women to attempt to play golf professionally with the LPGA tour, as well as the firms responsible for the Arizona court cases that led to statewide marriage equality: Lambda Legal and the Aiken Schenk Law Firm.

Additionally, the city of Tempe will receive the Community Equality Award. Last year, the municipality updated its city charter to mandate non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status.

3. Auction Action

Before the dinner, attendees can bid in a silent auction on items that include a weeklong cabin vacation in Durango, Colo., exclusive hotel packages, and work by local artists.

Bob Jacobson, one of the gala’s co-chairs, said the money raised at the event will stay in Arizona, as part of HRC’s “Project One America” initiative, which aims to dramatically expand LGBT equality in key states. Ana Ma, chief operating officer for the HRC’s national office in Washington, D.C., will give an update on the organization’s efforts at the federal level.

4. Local Celebrity Sightings

Many of Phoenix’s queer VIPs will be out in force at the gala, including U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, an HRC-endorsed candidate who will provide welcoming remarks at the dinner.

Both Katy June, the gala’s other co-chair, and Jacobson promised the event will include a number of surprises, but Jacobson said the curious would have to show up to get the full scoop.

“Katy and I have worked our butts off to make this the biggest and best event in the Valley, and that includes the surprises,” he said.

5. An Evening For Celebrating

VIP tickets to the gala are only $30 more than general admission, and VIP ticket-holders gain access to a private reception with a cash bar and sumptuous appetizers.

And after the gala, Stacy’s at Melrose will host the official after-party, which will be co-sponsored by Sway Events.

HRC Gala Award Honorees

Ally for Equality Award – Sara Ramirez

Ramirez is a Mexican-American actress, who moved to the United States with her mother at age 8. She plays the out lesbian Dr. Callie Torres on “Grey’s Anatomy,” which premiered in 2005. She appeared in the movies You’ve Got Mail (1998) and Spider-Man (2002), and won the 2005 Featured Actress in a Musical Tony for her role as The Lady of the Lake in Monty Python’s Spamalot.

Individual Equality Award – Dr. Bobbi Lancaster

Lancaster is a family physician who originally hails from Canada. She is a trans woman who started her transition journey in 2010. Recently, as she pursued her childhood dream of becoming a professional golfer, she became the first trans female to play in an LPGA event when she tried to qualify for the Tour in 2013.

Community Equality Award – City of Tempe

The city where openly gay Neil Giuliano was mayor for a decade – Tempe, Ariz. – received a “perfect” HRC Municipal Equality Index score of 100. A statewide leader in LGBT civil equality for years, the city added language that provides protection from discrimination for LGBT persons into its charter document in late 2014. The measure passed the city council unanimously and the public approved the measure, with 69 percent voting for it.

Corporate Equality Awards – Aiken Schenk Law Firm and Lambda Legal

HRC Arizona will honor the law firms that represented plaintiffs in both of the successful lawsuits that brought marriage equality to Arizona Oct. 17, 2014. The Aiken Schenk Law Firm, led by attorney Shawn Aiken, represented clients in the case Connolly vs. Roche, and Lambda Legal, which has served Arizona’s LGBT community through its Western Office for 25 years, pursued the case Majors vs. Jeanes.

Source: HRC Arizona.

HRC Arizona Gala
Feb. 28
5 p.m., VIP reception; 6 p.m., public reception and silent auction; 7 p.m., dinner and award presentations.
Arizona Grand Resort
8000 S. Arizona Grand Parkway, Phoenix.
Tickets: General admission, $225; VIP, $255