Metro Weekly

Hillary Clinton and Jeff Bezos to speak at HRC National Dinner

Selection of speakers signals HRC's commitment to opposing the Trump administration's actions on LGBTQ rights

Hillary Clinton — Photo: Gage Skidmore

Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will speak at the annual HRC National Dinner on Saturday, it has been announced.

They join Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who will deliver the evening’s keynote address.

Other special guests to appear at the dinner include LGBTQ activist and famed tennis player Billie Jean King, Gold Star father Khizr Khan, and actress Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black.

Multi-platinum selling band DNCE, best known for its 2015 hit song “Cake By the Ocean” and a host of other multi-platinum selling singles, will be the musical guest, and will perform in a mini-concert as the evening draws to a close.

“Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime fighting for the vulnerable, the marginalized, and oppressed — and she’s not about to back down now,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “As we confront powerful political forces built on hate and fear, Hillary — and the majority of American voters who backed her — have continued to champion the values that truly make America great. We are grateful to Hillary Clinton for being our steadfast champion each and every day.”

HRC’s invitations to Clinton — who addressed attendees of the National Dinner just prior to the 2008 election — Harris, and Khan demonstrates a willingness by HRC to double-down as a leader in the “resistance” to the Trump administration’s major domestic policies, particularly with respect to LGBTQ equality measures.

Earlier this summer, the nonpartisan organization undertook a campaign known as the “Summer of Action,” which was designed to register new LGBTQ voters and enlist them in efforts to push back against Trump administration policies that are seen as eroding progress on LGBTQ rights.

Despite her loss to Trump, Clinton has remained a figure held in high esteem by many of those who voted for her in last year’s election.

Harris, who gained national recognition for her grilling of Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing, is often held up as a political successor to Clinton, and is one of several Democrats frequently mentioned as a potential challenger to Trump in 2020.

Khan, a Muslim Gold Star parent whose son, Humayan Khan, posthumously earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart after he was killed by a car bomb while protecting fellow soldiers in Iraq, became famous after speaking at the Democratic National Convention last year.

Serving as a symbol of the resistance to the Trump campaign’s appeals to xenophobia and anti-Islamic rhetoric, Khan used his speech to eviscerate the then-GOP candidate, who subsequently attacked the Khan family and earned much criticism for disrespecting a Gold Star family.

Bezos, the Amazon CEO, will be honored with the HRC National Equality Award, which recognized the outstanding efforts of those who stand up for the LGBTQ community and commit their time and energy to advancing equality for LGBTQ Americans. Bezos was one of the largest financial backers of the fight to legalize marriage equality.

Under his leadership, Amazon undertook various initiatives to support LGBTQ rights, including joining HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, which advocates for passage of federal nondiscrimination legislation. Amazon also oversaw the creation of the multi-award winning series Transparent, which has helped highlight and bring to the public consciousness a variety of issues affecting the transgender community.

“As a longtime supporter of LGBTQ equality, Jeff Bezos was one of the earliest corporate leaders to join our fight for marriage equality,” Griffin said in a statement. “We are proud to honor him with the HRC National Equality Award for his longstanding personal commitment to building a more equal society and shining a spotlight on the challenges LGBTQ people face in their daily lives.”

HRC previously announced that Aduba, a two-time Emmy winner, will be receiving the HRC Ally for Equality Award for using her platform as an actress to call for greater representation of LGBTQ people in television, and her position as the child of Nigerian immigrants to speak out against anti-LGBTQ persecution abroad.

King, a former recipient of HRC’s National Equality Award in 2006, is known for her advocacy on behalf of both LGBTQ equality and for women’s rights throughout her professional career and afterwards. She was one of three openly gay U.S. delegates to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where her presence was seen as an indirect criticism of a Russian law preventing the spread of LGBTQ-affirming or LGBTQ-positive information that outlawed “gay propaganda.”

“Billie Jean King is a champion in every sense of the word,” Griffin said. “Her tenacity and fearlessness not only made her a sports legend, it made her one of the most effective advocates for social justice of her time.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com