Civil rights pioneer Phyllis Lyon, NCLR executive director Kate Kendell, and Kate's partner Sandy Holmes
Equality California (EQCA)'s 2011 San Francisco Equality Awards at City Hall on Feb. 12 was a resounding success, where more than 600 community leaders, activists, elected officials, labor and corporate leaders packed into multiple spaces where they could see the evocative festivities or view them on wide-screen televisions. It was also the triumphant farewell for executive director Geoff Kors, who is stepping down after nine years to spend more time with his handsome lover James Williamson. It was a marvelous love story that the audience appreciated just two days before Valentine’s Day.
Kors was praised throughout the evening, during the cocktail reception, dinner, and dessert after-party, and especially by National Center for Lesbian Right (NCLR) executive director Kate Kendell on stage, who said that he was like a brother to her and that he was a master tactician for LGBT rights. California State Senator Mark Leno complimented Kors for initiating most of the breakthrough legal advances for California’s LGBT citizens and there were 71 of them for elected officials like Leno to develop and get passed through the legislature to the governor’s desk, thanks to Kors. Author Helen Zia and her lover Lia Shigemura cornered Kors at the dessert after-party to thank him for his passion for civil rights work. EQCA’s Deb Kinney joined filmmaker Jenni Olson and her lover Julie Dorf to also praise Kors.
Alameda County Judge Victoria Kolakowski was presented with the Equality and Justice Award by NCLR attorney Shannon Minter for being elected the first openly-transgender U.S. Judge and for advocating for full LGBT rights through her board positions at EQCA and the Transgender Law Center. The other honoree, newly-elected California Attorney General Kamala Harris was to receive the Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon Marriage Equality Award, named for the lesbian and women’s rights pioneers. Harris could not attend the gala and Lyon was there to receive the award for Harris from presenter Senator Leno, and she received a sustained applause. Harris was honored for refusing to defend Proposition 8 in the ongoing federal case in her new state office and for setting up hate crime and same-sex sexual assault and domestic programs when she was San Francisco District Attorney.
Guests enjoyed the excellent wine and beef or vegetarian dinners and viewing the passing cavalcade of gowns, tuxedos, and suits on women and men.
There was a quick frenzy at some tables as charming District 10 City Supervisor Malia Cohen worked the room with Jimmer Cassiol, a former Mayor Gavin Newsom co-worker. Cohen met with San Francisco City Treasurer Jose Cisneros and his lover Mark Kelleher, former City Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and the male fashion statements for the evening — psychotherapist David Ortmann in a bright coral sport jacket and Magnet board member Matthew Denckla in a showy pink sport jacket.
Civil rights attorney and EQCA board member Linda Scaparotti’s white-ruffled Tadashi blouse blew away all possible fashion competition from the design conscious women at the event. Pride board members Lisa Williams and Alex Randolph met and mingled as did party planner Jason Chan and GAPA’s Trevor Nguyen.
Publicist Chris Carnes came down from the Sacramento River delta with her entourage Heather Findlay, Alice Hill, and Gretchen Fleischmann, and she hosted wine donor Wine Tasting Network.
Whole tables of men and some women had to remove their jackets because of the heat, especially on the gala’s upper floors, and many asked why Mayor Willie Brown had chosen not to air condition the building when it was renovated for $250 million after the 1989 earthquake.
EQCA’s deputy development director Michelle Ortiz and dozens of volunteers presented a well-coordinated gala and a fine send-off for executive director Kors.