RALEIGH — The Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Carolinas Gala Committee has announced that singer Clay Aiken and actress Meredith Baxter will be guest speakers at the 15th Annual HRC Carolinas Gala on Feb. 27 at the Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St.

Since coming to national attention on the second season of “American Idol” in 2003 — where he was the unexpected runner up, only to become the biggest selling male artist the show has ever featured — Raleigh native and resident Aiken has toured nine times, authored a New York Times bestselling memoir, sold more than six million albums, produced and hosted television programs, starred on Broadway (Monty Python’s “Spamalot”) and devoted considerable energy and resources to improving the lives of children all over the world.

Baxter is an acclaimed television, film, and stage actress, producer and advocate for women’s rights and breast cancer research. She recently came out as a lesbian on national television during an interview with Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” and in an interview in People Magazine. She also just signed a deal with Broadway Books to write a candid and revealing memoir of her personal life which, in addition to her recent disclosure, includes her diagnosis of breast cancer in 1998, as well as her professional life

HRC President Joe Solmonese will also speak.

Gala Dinner co-chair Joni Madison states, “We are very excited to announce our speaker line up for our Saturday evening Gala. Our guests will now have the opportunity to hear the personal stories of Mr. Aiken and Ms. Baxter, as well as HRC President Solmonese.”

Tickets are on sale $175 through Feb. 10. Price includes a one-year membership and a subscription to the quarterly HRC magazine.

In other news, the HRC Carolinas Gala Committee and Steering Committee have announced the recipients of their annual Equality Awards, which will be presented at the Gala.

This year’s awardees are Greensboro’s Guilford Green Foundation (Equality Award, Organization), Mary Elizabeth Lennon of Charlotte (Trailblazer, Equality Individual Award) and David Parker of Colfax, N.C. (Legacy Award).

For the past 11 years, the Guilford Green Foundation has promoted diversity and inclusiveness throughout the greater Guilford County community and distributed over $550,000 to organizations serving the LGBT community. Through programs such as the “Triad Takeover” and “Green Queen Bingo,” the Foundation has worked effectively to create both an awareness and appreciation of the LGBT community through visibility, solidarity and generosity.

Lennon, the youngest individual to ever receive the HRC Carolinas Equality Award, founded the Human Rights Alliance at Providence Day School in Charlotte, the first such organization to address LGBT issues at a private school in the area and stood firmly by her work and compassion as she rode out the storm of controversy subsequent to the group’s founding. Her work has since spread to other private schools in the area.

Parker is being recognized for his work with and on behalf of the transgender community, not just in North Carolina, but nationwide and for his work with PFLAG both locally and nationally. Not only has he worked to be an ally and an advocate, he has mentored, counseled, and parented countless transgender men and women serving to help them and their families understand and cope with their transitions.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit hrccarolinas.org. : :

This article was published in the Jan. 23 — Feb. 5 print edition.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.

One reply on “Gala speakers, award recipients announced”

  1. I hope this Gala is a success! More power to you! I am glad that celebrities like Clay Aiken and Meredith Baxter support this cause. I believe in EQUALITY!

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