BOSTON, Mass. — A Massachusetts statewide advocacy group hopes to raise its public profile and revenue coffers through a new venue.
Voilà Icon Awards, a signature fundraising event for MassEquality, an organization dedicated to securing equality from “cradle to grave” for residents of the Commonwealth and beyond.
The idea of the 2011 inaugural Icon Awards “is to showcase who we are as an organization and the unique role we play in the community,” said executive director Kara Suffredini.
Accordingly, MassEquality will honor three individuals and a corporation for their “exemplary leadership on behalf of LGBT equality,” Suffredini explained over the telephone.
The honorees include Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino for political leadership and gay philanthropist Ron Ansin, as well as corporate icon Eastern Bank and community icon Gladys Vega, executive director of Chelsea Collaborative, a social justice organization.
Political leadership, philanthropy, corporations’ financial support, and community organizing, said Suffredini are the “core components needed to advance a campaign for LGBT equality.”
The Icon Awards event is a business-attire dinner, set for Wednesday, Feb. 29, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the State Room, high atop 60 State Street in downtown Boston.
An G. Hinds and Sean Curran serve as event co-chairs.
The Icon Awards, Suffredini said, “harkens back” to MassEquality’s founding and its success in protecting same-sex marriage rights ushered in by the Supreme Judicial Court’s 2003 landmark Goodridge decision.
At forefront of the gay-marriage battle in Massachusetts stood a stalwart ally, Boston’s mayor.
Asked how it felt to be an icon, Menino said, during a recent telephone interview, “I don’t know about an icon, but I really appreciate this honor.”
“As mayor, you represent all the people, not just some of them,” he added. “They gay community is part of the city, and I want to make sure the city works for them, just as it does for everyone else.”
Mayor Menino said that the nearly eight years of same-sex marriage has been “good for the city,” making Boston a much better place to live.”
“It was a happy day for me, as mayor,” he said, when Massachusetts issued the first marriage licenses to same-sex couples on May 17, 2004. “I saw a lot of my friends, who had been together for 30, 40 years, get married.”
“It made people happier, more responsible,” said Menino. “I just think this fear we had that the world would come apart — not. It didn’t work.”
And the mayor minced no words about gay-marriage detractors. “Fear mongers out there, who fanned the flames, they don’t understand,” Menino said.
“It’s about human equality and social justice.” It’s about recognizing two people who love each other,” said Menino.
“I believe in the issues that I have supported,” he said.
So much so that Menino now serves as a co-chair of “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,” a budding group of more than 100 mayors pledged to same-sex marriage advocacy nationwide.
Other big-city mayors in the group include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, openly lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Last month Mayor Menino traveled to Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. There, on Friday morning, Jan. 20, at a Capitol Hill press conference Menino spoke about the importance of allowing gay couples to marry, calling for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, which bans federal recognition of legally married gay couples.
“It’s the right thing, and the American thing to do,” he said.
For Menino, doing the right thing is all about fairness, which is perhaps one of the earliest moral issues engrained in human beings. As small children are often quick to tell adults, “That’s not fair.”
Undoubtedly, Boston’s mayor has a good case of that basic good instinct.
By definition, an iconic figure is somebody or something widely and uncritically admired, particularly somebody or something symbolizing a movement or field of activity.
Surely, by any measure, whether advocating transgender equality, same-sex marriage, compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS, or refusing to march in a St. Patrick Day’s parade that bans openly gay groups, Menino is an icon.
Also, last summer, the Italian Catholic mayor and his wife Angela attended the “All are Welcome” Mass, a liturgical celebration supporting LGBT among the faithful, held at St. Cecilia’s Church in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.
The bottom-line on LGBT equality, said Menino, “It’s a no-brainer.”