Atlanta HRC Dinner honors Bravo’s Andy Cohen, local activists

The Atlanta Human Rights Campaign gala dinner brings in star power this year with Bravo’s Andy Cohen.

Cohen is the man behind all of “The Real Housewives” shows, as well as “Top Chef” and “Project Runway.” He also hosts “Watch What Happens: Live,” Bravo’s late night, interactive, weekly talk show. In essence, he is everywhere in the pop culture spotlight.

For living as an openly gay celebrity and businessman at a television network known for its gay-inclusive programming, HRC will present Cohen with the National Visibility Award at its 23rd Atlanta dinner on May 1.

The black-tie dinner at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotel features a silent auction, dinner and speakers. It raises funds to support HRC’s national work for LGBT equality.

“I think Bravo has a great evolution in portraying gay people … gay people are not on Bravo because they’re gay but because they are talented or interesting,” Cohen said in a recent conference call with several Atlanta media outlets.

Atlanta HRC Gala Dinner & Silent Auction
Saturday, May 1, 6 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Atlanta
265 Peachtree St. NE
Tickets: $200 general admission
$100 clergy, students, elected officials, parents attending with children

“If you look at our shows over the past four or five years, the roster of gay is high. We’re proud of that. And HRC and Bravo being like-minded — we are. HRC’s mission is America being a place where all gay men and lesbians and transgender people are full members of American society. Bravo portrays that world without editorialization and without fanfare,” he says.

As a network, Bravo has “always been really invested in showing just every color of the rainbow so to speak in terms of who people are rather than what they are,” Cohen said, noting that he takes a similar approach to his own life.

“I don’t want to hit people over the head with a hammer that I’m gay. But I have a gay point of view with a gay sensibility,” he says.

Local activists recognized

Cohen isn’t the only star being recognized for achievements. This year, the HRC Atlanta Dinner Committee honors local residents Vandy Beth Glenn and state Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta).

Bell, the first openly lesbian African-American to serve in a state legislature, will receive the Dan Bradley Humanitarian Award not only for her historic achievement but also for her years working on a broad range of policy and legislative issues. They include workplace equality, access to affordable healthcare, fighting HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination, safe schools for all children, youth empowerment, LGBT rights, and women’s issues.

“Probably in the moment of the evening it will all rush down on me — this is definitely a great honor,” Bell says during a brief break from working under the Gold Dome.

“HRC is one of our national organizations that strives to do a lot fighting for our rights — this is just another amazing thing to happen in the midst of so many amazing things.”

Bell says she is proud to be honored by an LGBT community group and she hopes to continue making all communities proud with her work in the legislature.

“Right now I have to stay focused on the work that needs to be done. I’m really pleased the community is behind me and I wouldn’t be here without the help of so many people. I just hope I can continue to make our communities proud,” she says.

Being a state representative is “hard, demanding work,” she adds, “but I’m loving it.”

Glenn will receive the Leon Allen and Winston Johnson Community Service Award for her courage in suing the Georgia General Assembly after she was fired from her job as a legislative editor when she told her boss she intended to transition to female.

Glenn is represented by Lambda Legal in the federal lawsuit. Last year her attorneys filed a summary judgment motion, but the judge has not ruled on it.

Also last year, Glenn traveled to Washington to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education & Labor about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The legislation would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

While a rift still exists between some in the transgender community and HRC after the national organization in the past agreed to support ENDA when it did not include gender identity and gender expression, Glenn says today everyone is on board with an inclusive agenda and it’s time to move forward together.

“I think the past should stay in the past. It’s time for us all to join hands and move forward,” she said.

She hopes that the award and her ongoing battle with the General Assembly will help others understand the discrimination transgender people face.

“I’m very honored and very humbled and grateful to my heroic attorneys because no one would have heard of my case without them,” she says.

“I hope this raises awareness that transgender people get treated like this all the time and it needs to stop.”


Photo: Bravo’s Andy Cohen, the gay man behind such hits as ‘Project Runway’ and the ‘Real Housewives’ franchise, receives HRC’s National Visibility Award at the May 1 Atlanta dinner. Courtesy Bravo.