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March 7, 2005
Pride banquet offers 'encouragement and hope'
BY Chanmi Kim
Laughter and warmth decorated the 13th Annual Pride Banquet, held Wednesday, March 2 at the Michael C.
Carlos Museum Reception Hall.
Sponsored by the President’s Commission on LGBT Concerns, the Office of LGBT Life and the LGBT Programming Council, more than 100 attended including President Jim Wagner and his wife Debbie.
Featured speaker Hector Vargas, director of the Southern Regional Office of Lambda Legal Defense, a national legal organization that works for the civil rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV/AIDS, spoke of the need for “equality everyday and in every way.”
“We are all entitled to full, complete equality,” Vargas said. “Sexual orientation does not determine our place in society.”
Vargas spoke of various discrimination and harassment cases Lambda Legal fought and won. Despite the “hostile environment” that many LGBT people live in, “time is on our side; we will prevail,” he said.
“Every civil rights battle comes down to the people,” he continued, encouraging the audience to recommit themselves and their activism “to build a better world that . . . [works] together for equality.”
Saralyn Chesnut, director of the Office of LGBT Life, opened the banquet by saying it was a celebration of not only the present and presence of the LGBT community, but also the people and events that brought that community together.
Chesnut said that as late as the 1970s, any Emory employee who openly expressed his or her homosexuality risked losing his or her job. “We’ve come a long way,” she said. “We have a lot to celebrate.”
Cathi Wentworth, chair of the President’s Commission on LGBT Concerns, gave a brief history of the Emory LGBT community, and also spoke on the accomplishments and future plans of the Commission. “It’s not just about getting to the end point,” Wentworth said, “but how we get there.”
President Wagner thanked the LGBT community for being a part of the wider Emory community. “I’m proud to be associated with, connected with, and advised by this community,” he said. “I get not anger but determination, not despair but encouragement and hope.”
Vargas said the banquet was “a testament to the supportive climate that LGBT people have been able to create here at Emory.”
College sophomore Alex Horstmann found it “comforting” to see that the LGBT community could “gather so freely without worrying about prejudice and persecution,” and to listen to a speaker who has “dedicated his life to such a good cause.”
According to graduate student Jakub Kakietek, “the best part of it is that we actually get a sense of community.”