NY Leadership Awards 2008

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Miss Guy, honoree John Waters and the legendary Debbie Harry
(Photo by Jeffrey Eason)

The 2008 New York Leadership Awards, the Task Force’s premier event in New York, took place on April 7. From the venue to the honorees to the performances, our 260 guests enjoyed a spectacular evening, which raised $170,000 to support the work of the Task Force.

The new New York Times Center was filled to capacity with our guests. Our VIP ticketholders spent time with honorees John Waters, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce co-founders Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell, as well as the legendary Debbie Harry and Miss Guy. While New York Gov. David Paterson was unable to join us due to last-minute wrangling over the state budget, Sean Patrick Maloney represented the governor at the reception and onstage.

Paterson also sent an extraordinary message via video to the standing-room-only crowd, in which he vowed “to push on until we bring full marriage equality to New York state” and urged “New York’s civil rights leaders to recognize that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities deserve equal rights.” The governor also promised to fight for an end to bullying in schools, for transgender rights and for affordable health care for everyone. Paterson’s remarks also garnered extensive media coverage.

Ensuring the evening was nothing like your usual charity gala, Debbie Harry and Miss Guy kicked off the program with two rocking songs that had the audience tapping their feet to the beat. All of our honorees sparkled — John Waters is a hilarious, witty and wonderfully irreverent man and, if Paterson ever opts for a new career path, stand-up comedy just might be the ticket. NGLCC’s Nelson and Mitchell, meanwhile, talked about their work with Fortune 500 corporations and “ma and ma” businesses, enabling our community to break through the lavender ceiling. The very funny Sabrina Matthews ably took us through the program as emcee.

The New York Leadership Awards was Matt Foreman’s last appearance as the Task Force’s executive director before he left to lead the Gay & Lesbian Program at the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in San Francisco. Foreman gave a moving and heartfelt speech about his time at the organization and in New York, and received a standing ovation from the filled theater.

The Task Force is grateful to the members of the event’s host committee, which was led by board members Jeff Adler, Mark Sexton and Paula Redd Zeman and included Adam Becker, Patricia Cronin, Ryan Greenberg, Ken Kidd, Clay Williams and board members Maureen Burnley, Eric von Kuersteiner and Ken Ranftle.

Special thanks also go to all our sponsors, including our generous Platinum sponsors Mark M. Sexton and partner Kirk Wallace, Showtime Networks, Inc., the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom, LLP, and Jim Stepp and partner Peter Zimmer.

Gold sponsors included the law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf, Tim Hosking and Audrey Sokoloff, David Kane, Michael Longacre, Friedrike Merck and board member Ken Ranftle and his partner Craig Leiby. The Law Offices of Kevin J. Farrelly was the event’s Silver sponsor. Bronze sponsors were board member Maureen Burnley and partner Tatiana Caryannis, Vincent Carrafiello, Yvette Christofilis & Karen Carr, David A. Clark, Christopher Coad, M.D., and Kevin Kowalski/Chelsea Eye & Cosmetic Surgery Associates, Dr. Marjorie J. Hill & Stacey Bridgeman, Franklin Levine, Robert J. Smolin, Will Trinkle & Juan Grandos, Clay Williams & David Groff, Martin A. Witt & the Rev. Canon Kris Lee, board member Paula Redd Zeman and partner the Rev. Deborah Tammearu, and William Zwart & David Berchenbriter.