With the U.S. Supreme Court deciding whether to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states next month, the topic weighed heavily on the minds of many prominent Hollywood LGBT figures at the 26th annual GLAAD Media Awards.
“We are on the precipice of the Supreme Court giving marriage equality across the land, and I want to remind people that love is love,” Ross Matthews told Variety on the red carpet, before hosting Saturday’s ceremony held at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. “Anybody who has been discriminated against just wants to be accepted and included. I hope the Supreme Court will make the right choice and promote equality.”
This year’s show, which honors those who further GLAAD’s mission of ensuring that stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are heard through media outlets accurately, raised $225,500. Talkshow host Kelly Ripa received the Excellence in Media Award from Anderson Cooper in recognition of her advocacy for LGBT issues.
“It’s the biggest thrill of my life. Besides the birth of my children, it’s the most important thing that’s happened to me,” Ripa, 44, told Variety about being honored prior to the ceremony. “To have the support of a community that I feel such a part of, which I have been collaborating with for so many years, and to have them honor me when all I want to do is honor them, it’s a feeling of pride and I’m just so grateful and humbled by it.”
Ripa, who executive produces Logo TV’s reality show “Secret Guide to Fabulous” with her husband Mark Consuelos, said onstage she was undeserving of the award for simply “treating people like people,” but thanked the gay community for their support and influence throughout her life and 25-year career.
“The LGBT community has led the way in treating people like people. Oftentimes, those who are the most discriminated against are the most empathetic and the most inclusive. Quite frankly, I should be giving this award to all of you.”
MSNBC journalist Thomas Roberts, 42, the first out cable news anchor, was presented with the Vito Russo prize, an award named after the founding member of GLAAD; the award honors an LGBT media professional who has made a difference in promoting equality. During his acceptance speech, Roberts took a pause to fight back tears when he discussed his suicide attempt as a teen. “When I was growing up, I was burdened with the feelings of thinking that I was less than because I knew I was gay. I was hopeless and because of a culmination of events surrounding my sexuality at the age of 15, I attempted to take my life,” he said. “But my sister saved my life. People like me were considered immoral at best, a joke and the option of being out meant being an outcast. Sadly, that’s how my mind worked then.”
Roberts explained his life changed when he stopped letting frustration consume his life and converted his fears into pride. “Coming out wasn’t without its missteps and major learning lessons, but after every storm, you can hope for a rainbow — or in my case, a colorful peacock.”
Other standout moments included a standing ovation for Texas-shooting survivor Kristene Chapa, out country singer Ty Herndon performing a passionate rendition of Miley Cyrus’ hit song “The Climb,” and a surprise appearance by “Empire” star Jussie Smollett.
On the arrivals carpet, “Orange Is the New Black” star Laverne Cox told Variety she is proud of the progress that Hollywood has made by featuring more gay characters in television over the last year, but said lots of change is still vital.
“There are so many things that I would like to see changed. We still need more diversity and trans visibility on television and especially in film,” said the Emmy nominee. “And most importantly, along with the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage, we need public policy that support the lives of trans people that don’t criminalize us for walking down the street or using the bathrooms. More policies need to be created for our protection and ones that protect our LGBTQ youth. I believe we can all join together to create change and save lives. Now is the time do it.”