Meet our Celebrity Ambassadors
and the Marriage Equality USA Advisory Board!
Our Celebrity Ambassadors lend their names and images to benefit Marriage Equality USA. They may also assist in fundraising for the organization. The Advisory Board consists of influential voices in the marriage equality movement; elected officials, political leaders and activists. They may provide direct input to the Board and organizational management. The Advisory Board is not a decision-making body. Our Ambassadors and our Advisory Board Members all share the vision of securing marriage equality for all.
Margaret Cho was born 5 December 1968 and raised in San Francisco. "It was different than any other place on Earth," she says. "I grew up and went to grammar school on Haight Street during the '70s. There were old hippies, ex-druggies, burnouts from the '60s, drag queens, and Chinese people. To say it was a melting pot – that's the least of it. It was a really confusing, enlightening, wonderful time."
What Margaret did know is that she didn't love being a kid. Racing toward adulthood to escape bullying, she began writing jokes for stand up at 14 and professionally performing at age 16.
By 2011, along with two Grammy nods, Margaret was recognized in many other areas as well. She was the recipient of the Victory Fund's 2008 Leadership Award and the first ever Best Comedy Performance Award at the 2007 Asian Excellence Awards. She also received the First Amendment Award from the ACLU of Southern California, and the Intrepid Award from the National Organization for Women (NOW).
Throughout her career, she has been honored by GLAAD, American Women in Radio and Television, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and PFLAG for making a significant difference in promoting equal rights for all, regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender identity. In June of 2011, Margaret was honored by LA Pride, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes an individual whose lifetime body of work has left a lasting major imprint on the LGBT community.
"It's a wonderful thing to be known as a 'safe haven' for people. A lot people who come to my shows don't necessarily consider themselves traditional comedy fans. I seem to be a safe alternative for people who don't think they're being represented in society. They come because my point of view satisfies a lot of what needs to be said out there, and that makes me really proud."
Visit www.margaretcho.com for the latest on this superstar!
Canadian born Robin Tyler was the first "out" lesbian or gay comic in the USA. She started doing out gay material in 1973, released her first solo album in 1978 and appeared on national television as an out lesbian comic in 1980.
Robin initiated the call for the 1979 Lesbian and Gay March on Washington and produced the main stages for the 1979, 1987, and 1993 Marches on Washington. She has produced 25 women's music and comedy festivals, and the first Internatal Queer Comedy Festival in Australia in 1994.
Robin became involved in marriage equality in 1974. She emceed and helped sponsor the first marriage equality ceremony at the 1987 March on Washington, despite the March committtee's objection to supporting the issue. She was the first plaintiff in the lawsuit that brought marriage equality to California. (Tyler v State of California). She was a petitioner to overturn Prop 8 and produced 12 PSA's called "Stop the Hate, No on 8" most of which were made with celebrities who were People of Color. The No on 8 campaign leaders chose not use these PSA's, despite the fact that limited outreach had been done with communities of color.
Robin recently finished her one woman show Always A BridesMaid, Never A Groom(from her first comedy album). Using comedy and her life as material the show is a comedic view of the history of the LGBT movement, focusing on marriage equality.
Markus Klinko & Indrani
"Photography duo have become notorious for producing iconic images" (Arena). Collaborating as a creative team since 1995 their fashion and celebrity images are creating waves around the world, in fashion magazines, on album covers and billboards. The award winning duo's imagery has been described as "a powerful dream vision - seamless, erotic, unforgettable, the work of two contemporary masters" (Black & White Magazine). David Bowie commissioned Markus and Indrani to create the imagery for his 2002 release Heathen which was followed in 2003 by the prize-winning photography for Beyonce Knowles' Dangerously in Love (Sony). Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Kate Winslet, Katie Holmes, Kate Beckinsale, Eva Mendes, Pamela Anderson, Anne Hathaway, Matt Dillon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Val Kilmer, Outkast, Jay-Z and Keanu Reeves are among the pair's recent subjects. Markus and Indrani's advertising and editorial clients include L'Oreal Paris, Proctor & Gamble, Elizabeth Arden, Baume-et-Mercier, Pepsi, Puma, De Beers, Hugo Boss, Anna Sui, Shiseido, V Magazine, Vanity Fair and Vogue. Their mastery of photography and digital technology have inspired collaborations with leading photography equipment brands such as Broncolor, Fuji Film USA and Kodak-Leaf.
French-Hungarian Markus Klinko was born in Switzerland, began piano at 3, and spent his teens studying harp at the Paris National Conservatory. He had an early illustrious career as a classical harp soloist, playing concerts around the world and releasing award-winning CDs for EMI Classics. In 1994, after receiving the Grand Prix du Disque for his last recording with the Paris Opera Bastille Orchestra, Markus decided to follow a new passion and begin a career in photography. A few weeks later he met Indrani and they began their extraordinary friendship and collaboration.
Half-Indian, half-English, Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri was born in Calcutta, and raised in India, England and Canada. At the age of 14, she began traveling the world as a fashion model, working with the world's greatest photographers and creatives, while studying philosophy and meditation. She used her modeling earnings to found and fund a charitable school with her father in their ancestral home in Ranaghat, India. Indrani received a scholarship to Princeton University, at the same time as her photography career with Markus began to take off. She earned a high honors BA in Anthropology at Princeton while commuting to work around the clock with Markus in New York, experimenting and establishing their unique photographic style.
Markus Klinko and Indrani live for their work, passionately collaborating closely with their subjects, to highlight their unique qualities and personalities, with a fresh modern perspective, to create the most iconic images of our times.
Ryan is a comic whose irreverence and honesty have been wowing audiences all across Los Angeles. He can be seen regularly at the Hollywood Improv, Ice House, and Comedy Store making people laugh so hard they pee, just a little. He jokes about the trials of growing up a fat nerd in myopic Orange County and his transformation into the big gay swan he is today. Having trained with the world famous Groundlings and Judy Carter, Ryan has a comedic versatility that allows him to go from the strict structure of writing and standup, to the playful spontaneity of sketch comedy, improv, and hosting. With this multitude of talents at his disposal Ryan has made numerous TV appearances on MTV, TBS, NBC, and FOX.
His credits include: Musicplustv.com (VJ Down low), Girls Club (Fox), Earth 2 America (HBO/TBS), MTV Carson Daly Bash, MTV Dodgeball Movie Special, Art4life in association w/ The American Cancer Society, Pepsi, Doritos, SBC, and Dr. Pepper. In addition to television show appearances, Ryan has appeared in numerous commercials for internationally recognizable brands and most recently can be seen playing the goofy cheerleader Timmy in a campaign for FREECREDITREPORT.COM. Lastly Ryan can be seen Hosting Carnival a monthly event at the Hollywood hot-spot Key Club. His high energy antics and sardonic wit will have you rolling in the aisles. Come out and see him. You won't be disappointed! Ryan Hill - YouTube Video of Musikfest Late Night Stand Up at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks.
JASON & DEMARCO
Jason and DeMarco are living proof that art imitates life, and that music can also be inspired by the best that life has to offer on its many levels, sometimes mystical and at times, even euphoric. Their passionate and hopeful lyrics exemplify a spirit that is reflected in both their lives and music, attracting audiences everywhere, and creating instant fans wherever they go. States deMarco, "We want to create music that is very inclusive." With such an attitude, it is not surprising that the duo's music and peformances have been received with critical acclaim and that this represents just the beginning of what is sure to be a long and prosperous career.
The duo has performed at the 2005 Equality California Awards in Palm Springs and in February of 2006 launched the New Year with a musical performance at the Human Rights Campaign Gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, opening the evening premiering their new albums title track "Till the End of Time", where honorees included Ang Lee and Jake Gyllenhaal from the Golden Globe Winning Film "Brokeback Mountain". The musical duo was also part of the Human Rights Campaign star-studded benefit two-pack CD album celebrating marriage equality, entitled, "Love Rocks," which also includes tracks from Christina Aguilera, Pink, The Dixie Chicks, Melissa Etheridge, Mandy Moore, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Dido, Carole King, Yoko Ono, Cyndi Lauper and Oleta Adams, among others. Visit www.jasonanddemarco.com to learn more about this amazing duo! Jason & DeMarco wed in 2008 during California's "Summer of Love".
SIR ARI GOLD
Ari Gold is an international recording artist. MTV's LOGO names ARI GOLD'S WAVE OF YOU video 3rd SEXIEST VIDEO OF ALL TIME!
Ari is the ONLY openly gay independent recording artist who made the list! Ari has been featured on VH-1, MTV Europe, LOGO, HBO Zone, Here!, IFC and received critical acclaim from trade papers, Billboard and HITS. Having toured all over the US, Canada and Europe while gracing countless magazine covers with his stylish and sexy image, the press has already coined Gold a gay icon. Visit Ari's website www.arigold.com for the latest updates on his current tour!
Ari continues to be at the forefront of human rights with his charity work and raising money for organizations such as The Hetrick Martin Institute, The Black AIDS Institute, and the Ali Forney Center, which helps homeless GLBT youth. Ari is also an honorary chair-person of The Wedding Party along with Susan Sarandon and Alan Cumming. Ari makes substantial use of his high profile by remaining at the forefront of the fight for human rights. His song "Home" can be heard on the Human Rights Campaign's benefit album Love Rocks along with music by Melissa Etheridge, Christina Aguilera, Dolly Parton, and Carole King. He contributed "Bashert (Meant To Be)" to the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) benefit CD Marry Me, released in an effort to secure the rights of same sex couples. Ari offers his own charity package through his website that donates proceeds to The Ali Forney Center for LGBT homeless youth and serves on the board of Baily House.
Moises Kaufman is one of the most recognized playwrights in the country today - Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and The Laramie Project have been among the most honored and most widely performed plays in America over the last decade.
Mr. Kaufman most recently directed The Public Theater's production of Macbeth in Central Park starring Liev Schreiber and Jennifer Ehle. He previously directed the Pulitzer and Tony award winning play I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright (Obie award for direction, Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critic's Circle and Lucille Lortel nominations). Mr. Kaufman also directed the film adaptation of The Laramie Project, which aired on HBO and was the opening night selection at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival (Humanitas Prize, National Board of Review - Best TV Film, Special Mention for Best First Film at the Berlin Film Festival, and Emmy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Writer).
Mr. Kaufman is the founder and Artistic Director of Tectonic Theater Project, a laboratory for new works in theater and film based in New York (recipient of an Outer Critics Circle Award, GLAAD Media Awards, Human Rights Campaign Artistic Integrity Award). Tectonic is currently in development of 33 Variations, an original work exploring Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. Other directing credits include an episode of The L Word (Showtime), Lady Windermere's Fan (Williamstown Theater Festival), This is How it Goes (Donmar Warehouse), Master Class with Rita Moreno (Berkeley Rep), Tennessee Williams' One Arm (Steppenwolf), Women in Beckett, Machinal, In the Winter of Cities and The Nest. Mr. Kaufman is the recipient of the Joe A. Callaway Award for Directing and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwriting. To learn more about Moises and the Tectonic Theater Project visit www.tectonictheaterproject.org.
Brian has been in the entertainment world most of his life and has taken on many jobs to get this point. Brian has competed in figure skating, performed as leading man on Crystal Cruise Lines and was even part of the original cast of Naked Boys Singing. After several years in Los Angeles, Kent migrated towards the lights of Las Vegas where he performed and headlined in several shows along the Strip at venues such as the MGM Grand, The Aladdin, Caesar's Palace, and The Sahara. It was in Las Vegas that Kent met dance diva recording artist Kristine W. and worked as her backup vocalist for the next several years. During his time working with Kristine W., Kent also earned rave reviews in his leading role at The Continental Hotel & Casino. After a successful run, Kent returned to Los Angeles where he went on to perform in numerous equity stage productions and commercial spots over the next year, including his sold-out one man show at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel's Cinegrill. Kent followed his success by relocating to New York where he debuted his solo show, A Native New Yorker, and again later to sold-out audiences in his sequel shows, Life's for Rent and One Night Only. Brian now makes it into his own and focuses on his own life's experiences and lessons on the new album Breathe Life.
Brian co-wrote and collaborated with such amazing talent to bring this project to life. The producers on the album include Jack D. Elliot (Reina, Kristine W) and Chico from Rizz-One Entertainment (Junior Vasquez, Katherine McPhee). Zhana Saunders, who has performed with such great artists as Taylor Dayne and Dee-Lite, co-wrote many of the tracks with Brian. The amazing Janice Robinson, known for her #1 hit Dreamer, lends her writing skills to one of the tracks on the record (I Pray). The upcoming single and title track Breathe Life was written and produced by Jack D. Elliot for JDE Music who has also worked with such great artists as Nick Lachey, NSync and Britney Spears. Visit www.brian-kent.com to learn more about this amazing talented guy!
A graduate of the Air Force Academy, a captain in the Air Force, a successful entrepreneur, an international model, a winner of CBS' Amazing Race, a Gay Rights Advocate. All these and Reichen is only 32. It is quickly apparent that once Reichen sets a goal, it is only a matter of time before he reaches it. He has now set his sights on acting as Reichen pursue it as a career. Since winning the Amazing Race, Reichen has caught the eye of several casting directors and has already appeared on Frasier, The Drew Carey Show, The Young & The Restless and The Lair.
Prior to Reichen's professional acting debut, he was playing the role of his life while in the Air Force. Not wanting to face a court martial for being gay, Reichen had to live in two different worlds. One world where he had to watch everything he did and said for fear of being outed; the other world where he was completely free to be himself. As Reichen explains, "The don't ask don't tell policy is so contradictory to what the Air Force and all the armed forces stand for. They say they are all about honor, integrity and honesty but they force you to lie in order to serve your country." Once out of the Air Force, Reichen joined the Amazing Race TV show with his ex-partner. Reichen believes his military training was extremely helpful in his winning the show's million dollar prize. It's that same determination and focus which will propel Reichen to reach the next target he has locked in on. Visit www.reichen.us to learn more about Reichen and his new book Here's What We'll Say about growing up, coming out, and the Air Force.
Mr. Shores has written, directed and produced film, television and stage. Shores' career took off with the play Daddy's Dyin' (Who's Got The Will?), 1987, winning many Los Angeles theatre awards, including LA Weekly's Best Production and Best Writing. A movie version of Daddy's Dyin' was released in 1990 by MGM and Propaganda Films. Shores wrote the screenplay and executive produced the film. Sordid Lives, his fourth play, opened in Los Angeles 11 May 1996 and ran 13 sold-out months. The critics raved --awarding the production Critic's Choice. The play went on to win 14 Drama-Logue Theatre Awards, including three for Shores for writing, directing and producing. He was also nominated for Robby, L.A. Weekly and GLAAD Awards for writing, directing and producing. In 1999, Shores wrote and directed the film version of Sordid Lives. The movie won many festival awards, including Best Film at the New York Independent Film & Video Festival, Atlanta Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, South Beach Film Festival, Memphis International Film Festival and the San Diego International Film Festival and racked up a total of thirteen Audience Awards. On 5 October 2006, Shores was given a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars "for his lifetime achievement in the field of entertainment and contribution to the world of prominence of Palm Springs." Sordid Lives: The Series premiered on LOGO 23 July 2008. Shores created, wrote, directed and executive produced all twelve episodes. The show became LOGO's biggest hit to date.
Southern Baptist Sissies is Shores most personal play -- a tragicomedy. It enjoyed a ten-month sold-out run in Los Angeles in 2000 and 2001, then enjoyed a sold-out run at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary Theatre in Dallas. Revived in L.A. in April 2002, Sissies enjoyed yet another six month sold-out run, again at the Zephyr Theatre. The play opened at the Bailiwick Theatre in Chicago to rave reviews July 2002 and was the theatres' biggest hit during their "Pride" summer series, garnering two After Dark Awards for Best Direction and Best Ensemble. The original LA production of Sissies received 20 Los Angeles Theatre Awards, Shores alone receiving the LA Weekly, Robby and Maddy for Best Direction and the Backstage West Garland, Robby and Maddy for Best Writing. The play was also awarded the prestigious GLAAD Award for Outstanding Production of the Year. In 2003, The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife became his most critically acclaimed and darkest play to date. After a six-month sold-out run at the Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles, Shores' won the prestigious Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's Ted Schmitt Award for World Premiere of an Outstanding New Play. The Circle also awarded the play Best Production and Beth Grant Best Lead Performance. Trials also won five Back Stage West Garland Awards (Best Play, Best Direction, Best Writing, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress), two NAACP Awards (Best Play, Best Playwright, 7 nominations, including Best Directing for Shores ), Ovation Awards (Best Actress, 4 nominations, including writing and direction for Shores') seven Maddy Awards (including Best Play, Writing, Direction) and three L.A. Weekly Awards (Best Playwright, Best Ensemble, Best Supporting Actor). For the 2006 revival, the cast won the Ovation Award for Best Ensemble and Shores was nominated for Best Direction and Best Production. Other plays include Cheatin' and Daughters of the Lone Star State.
Shores has written and produced for Maximum Bob, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Live Shot, Touched By An Angel, Ned and Stacey, Family Ties, and Dharma and Greg. Shores also produced for the last three seasons of the ground-breaking, acclaimed Showtime series Queer As Folk for which he wrote many episodes. He has written and produced pilots for every network and wrote, directed and executive produced the Showtime movie The Wilde Girls. Shores is currently performing again, touring the country in his sold-out one-man show Del Shores The Storyteller. He is also touring his stand-up act simultaneously with Caroline Rhea, Leslie Jordan and Rue McClanahan in A Sordid Comedy Affair.
Jason's first dance single hit play featuring Take Me Away is about to explode. After performances to standing room only crowds from Dallas and Nashville, to Las Vegas and New York City, DJ's spinning it as far as Berlin, and under the wings of PRO MOTION, there is no doubt he'll be having his first Billboard hit this summer. Dottley is currently starring as "Ty Williamson" in Del Shores' Sordid Lives: The Series. The show currently airs on LOGO in America, in Canada on the SuperChannel, in Israel, debuting in Germany and Austria in May of 2009, as well as France and Sweden. Enjoy a complete set of Sordid Lives: The Series trailers and video promos on Del Shores' Youtube Channel "Sordid Lives Channel."
As a producer, Dottley is currently working on the film adaptation of Shores' GLAAD award-winner Southern Baptist Sissies. Delta Burke and Leslie Jordan are top-lining with filming planned for 2010. Currently in the world of theatre, Dottley is producing Del Shores' one-man show Del Shores The Storyteller which is currently on tour playing to sold out houses across the country. Next up is A-Sordid Comedy with Caroline Rhea, Del Shores and Leslie Jordan which hit the Majestic Theatre in Dallas 19 September 2009. For his new ventures, Dottley has opened shop with Dottley Enterprises, LLC and JD3 Records, LLC. During the fall of 2006 Dottley produced the six-city national tour (Del Shores' The Official Tour) of two plays he'd been producing locally in Los Angeles, Southern Baptist Sissies and Sordid Lives. From Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale, he played to over 15,000 fans on the road in venues packed over the 1,200 mark. Dottley kicked off 2006 with the revivals of both road shows at the Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood. In the middle of the run, Dottley added a revival of Shores' most critically-acclaimed play The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife into the mix that starred Beth Grant in her tour-de-force, extraordinary awarded performance. The prestigious L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation Awards honored Dottley with a "Best Production" nomination. In 2005 Dottley joined forces with five-time Emmy and 2-time Golden Globe winning producer Alice West (Ugly Betty, Picket Fences, LA Law, The Practice, Ally McBeal), producer Victoria Alonso (Sordid Lives, Iron Man, Kingdom of Heaven), and Shores to create Far From Right Productions which produced the local theatre runs in association with Dottley and Shores. In the fall of 2003, Jason enjoyed a six-week run at the Actor's Lab in Hollywood in Terrance McNally's Lisbon Traviata from which he received a great round of reviews for his professional stage acting debut. Dottley studied acting at the Piero Dusa Acting Conservatory in Santa Monica, CA, at an intensive rate of 4 (to sometimes 6) acting classes per week, for over 6 months. He has been fortunate enough to study with Joan Darling, the Ivanna Chubbuck Studios and at the Groundling's. Dottley is from Mississippi and has lived in Los Angeles since 6 January 2000.
One of the most sought-after jokesmiths in the entertainment industry, Bruce Vilanch has become a recognizable face in his own right, thanks to the feature-length documentary Get Bruce! (1999) and his one-time stint as a regular on Hollywood Squares (1998), for which he also served as head writer. Mr. Vilanch was born in New York on 23 November 1948, but was adopted by the Vilanch's--his late father, Jonas, an optometrist and his mother, Henne, a former Broadway show girl--and then grew up in Patterson, New Jersey. He has a very special bond with Henne and according to him, gets a lot of his show biz humour from her. Known for his eclectic eyewear and collection of unique T-shirts, he began as a child model for Lane Bryant, but when his initial efforts as an actor came to naught, he became an entertainment writer for the Chicago Tribune instead. Impressed by his review of her cabaret performance in 1970, Bette Midler hired him to punch up her act where he gave birth to Midler's famed Sophie Tucker jokes. He later moved to Los Angeles where he wrote for variety shows like the original Donny and Marie and The Brady Bunch Hour (both ABC) and provided material for Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin and Joan Rivers. He has maintained his connection with Midler through the years, working on such projects as the feature Divine Madness (1980) and the TV special Bette Midler--Diva Las Vegas (HBO, 1997), as well as writing for her short-lived but lively sitcom, Bette! (CBS, 2000 ).
Vilanch began contributing to Academy Awards telecasts in 1989, collaborating with the likes of Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman, and graduated to head writer in 2000. He has roasted celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and President Clinton. The Whoopi connection led to his providing the notorious material Ted Danson performed in blackface at a certain 1993 Friars Club roast of his then-girlfriend Goldberg, but his resume also includes You Made Me Watch You, the touching Emmy-winning valedictory Midler crooned as a send-off to Johnny Carson. He scripted most of the Academy Awards telecasts over the last decade, two of which won Emmys, including the one featuring Billy Crystal's Hannibal Lecter entrance. Mr. Vilanch has also written for The Tony's, The Grammy's, The Emmy's, and just about every other award show to brighten your television screen. He also participates and volunteers at almost every charity function, especially those dealing with GLBT issues. Visit www.wegotbruce.com to learn more about Bruce and his current tour and appearance schedule.
Tom Goss is a singer-songwriter whose muscular style and sensitive spirit has earned him a growing national following. With an acoustic guitar (and sometimes piano), Tom moves from powerful pop to beautiful ballads as he sings of love, loss and longing. The Washington, DC-based, former Catholic priest in training, has released three albums since 2006; he completed a 58-city US tour in support of his latest, Back to Love. The video for 2008's Rise soared to #2 on MTV's LOGO and the video for 2009's Till the End created an instant buzz, generating more than 100,000 views on YouTube and Facebook and eventually reaching #1 on MTV's LOGO. Tom grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He spent his childhood in the gym with his gymnast parents and brothers, but switched to wresting in junior high school, "a better outlet for some serious teenage aggression",and stuck with it through college. Music was another, more enduring passion. His mom bought him a guitar as a high-school graduation present, and he quickly taught himself to play. Inspired by Dave Matthews and David Gray, he soon started writing songs of his own. Through it all, Tom felt a strong spiritual calling. While at the University of Central Missouri, studying to become a teacher, Tom decided that he was meant to be a priest instead. He moved to Washington, DC in 2004 to enter Catholic seminary. It didn?t go as planned and, disillusioned by the institution in which he had placed his faith, he chose to abandon religious training but not his quest. Back in secular life, Tom sought new ways to work toward social justice, the issue that had led him to the church in the first place. He took a job running a breakfast program for the homeless. He began to build a life with his partner Mike. And he channeled his message of love, hope and reconciliation through his music. Don't expect hymns.
Tom offers up dynamic acoustic rock featuring muscular guitar, hooky melodies and a uniquely powerful voice. If the 26-year-old has any patron saints, they are Jack Johnson, Damien Rice, Ben Folds, and Joss Stone. Since April 2006, when he released his self-produced debut, Naked Without, Tom has played scores of coffeehouses, bars, gay pride festivals and other events, honing his skills along the way. With the January 2008 release of his second CD, Rise, Tom demonstrated just how far he'd come. The six songs showcase his stylistic flexibility, from the urgent growl of Morning Sun to the sweet and unadorned King of Something Right. The recent music video for Rise barreled its way to #2 on MTV's LOGO and stuck around 8 weeks. On April 7, 2009, Tom released his latest album Back to Love. The album continues to build on themes of rebirth and renewal, of love and loss and what lies beyond. Tom's music remains a playlist for anyone on a journey from darkness to light. Visit www.tomgossmusic.com to learn more about Tom and get the latest information on his music.
Celisse has been working in theater/television since 2002. You may have caught her on television in Rescue Me and 30 Rock, or perhaps you've seen her on Broadway or touring across the USA in Wicked The Musical. You may have also caught Celisse as she has held a recurring role in Electric Company.
Celisse is now stepping out as a solo artist. In 2009 she performed at Defying Inequality the San Francisco Concert where she debuted a new song called The Wedding Bell. It was one of the highlights of the evening. You can check it out on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU0tzEcsRkE. She also performed at Carnegie Hall for the Leonard Bernstein celebration.
Visit her website at www.celissehenderson.com to get a sample of this incredible musical talent!
JOE DULUDE II
Joe Dulude II is probably best known as the Makeup Designer for Wicked The Musical. He began his career watching old monster movies as a kid and used his nieces as victims to his makeup whims. This love of makeup led him to New York City where he began working for MAC Cosmetics. Through MAC he expanded his makeup repertoire forging into the fields of television, editorial, runway and bodypainting. He used his skills in various ways including benefits such as Broadway Bares and Take Home A Nude. He also delved into the night time world of hosting and deejaying various parties throughout the city.
He started his Broadway career with the makeup design for Wicked and then followed up with The Wedding Singer The Musical and the latest revival of Grease! His work has brought him all over the world setting up companies of Wicked in four countries including the UK, Germany, Japan and Australia.
While working on the Wicked tour, he started producing and directing benefits that the company would perform in cities throughout the U.S. It was at this time that he realized that he had something to do to make the world a better place. He couldn't rely on everyone else to do the work for him and had to rely on his own strength and convictions to make things happen. This feeling brought him to his latest endeavor - producing and directing Defying Inequality: The San Francisco Concert, a benefit to raise awareness for marriage rights. Together with his team he brought in performers from all over the country to stand up and fight for equal rights. His message was one of standing and taking action to fight so that everyone has equal rights regardless of race, sex, age, sexual orientation or religion. This country was founded on freedom and justice for all and it's time it lives up to this creed.
His work with Wicked has finally brought him to San Francisco, where he feels he has found his home. He is also an artist and all around creative guy and very happy that he has come to "Atlantis" to find his home!
Political & Activist Advisors
Molly McKay is an attorney who has been involved in the fight for marriage equality since 1996. She's served previously as a co-founder and the Executive Director of Marriage Equality California, the Field Director for Equality California, the Media Director of Marriage Equality USA, and an officer on the Board of Directors for Marriage Equality USA. Molly is Senior Counsel at Gordon & Rees LLP. She sings in the Joy Choir at the Oakland Center for Spiritual Living. Molly has received numerous awards recognizing her service to the LGBT community including the "Saints Alive" award from the San Francisco Metropolitan Community Church (2004); the Harvey Milk Democratic Club's Community Service Award (2005), the "Michael Switzer Leadership Award" from New Leaf Counseling Center (2006); the Alice B. Toklas' Community Service Award (2008), GLOBE Community Service Award (2008) and Community Grand Marshal of SF Pride (2010). She is featured in several marriage equality documentaries including Freedom to Marry; Journey to Justice; Pursuit of Equality; I Do, Don't I; and American Quest. For over a decade Molly was known as a national spokesperson for the American marriage equality movement. Calling it her "battle garb", she is known for wearing a wedding gown as a symbol of protest and visibility in the fight for civil equality. McKay resides in the East Bay (San Francisco Bay Area).
SENATOR MARK LENO
CA Senator Mark Leno represents the 3rd District, which encompasses the eastern portion of San Francisco, California . He is one of the first openly gay men ever elected to the California Legislature. In 2007, Leno continued his pioneering battle for equal rights for LGBT couples and their families by introducing AB 43, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. This historic civil rights legislation would allow same sex couples to marry in California . In 2005, Leno's nearly identical AB 849 was the first marriage equality bill in United States history to be approved by both houses of a state legislature.
Leno has been honored for his public service by many organizations including the Stonewall Democratic Club in Los Angeles with their Sheila Kuehl Trail Blazer Award, The Lazarus Project's Lazarus Award for Marriage Equality, The California Young Democrats' Mentor of the Year, Partners Ending Domestic Abuse's Kamala Harris Leadership Award and Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim's 2006 Herman Humanitarian Award.
Outside of his capacity as an elected official, Leno has been a tireless supporter of nonprofit organizations in San Francisco , frequently appearing to show support at events and lending a hand wherever possible. He was a statewide spokesman for the No on Prop 22 Campaign (the Knight Initiative) and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in August 2000 and in Boston in August 2004.
LT DAN CHOI
Lt. Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and Iraq veteran - one of only eight students in his graduating class fluent in Arabic - announced that he was gay on The Rachel Maddow Show on 19 March 2009. Because of these three words,“I am gay,” Lt. Choi’s life changed forever. (@1:57) Despite his extreme value as an Arabic speaker able to communicate quickly and clearly with the Iraqi people, one month after his public announcement Lt. Dan Choi was notified that the Army had begun discharge proceedings against him. He was discharged under the infamous “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy.
The discharge served as a catalyst and Lt. Choi became an important leader in the fight to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." He was repeatedly arrested while protesting in front of the White House during a time when President Barack Obama did not provide leadership on gay rights legislation, or take presidential action to halt the military discharges based on sexual orientation. Lt. Choi was part of a small group of protestors who continued their activism despite enduring criticism from within the LGBT community. Following his arrests, Lt. Choi always pled "not guilty" at trial, often representing himself in court.
Lt. Choi continues to advocate for full LGBT civil rights and veterans’ health services. He has served as Grand Marshal of the San Francisco, New York City, Miami, and Wichita Kansas LGBT Pride parades, as well as the Amsterdam Canal Pride in the Netherlands, and the illegal Moscow Russia Pride Parade. In Moscow, Lt. Choi and several Russian activists were beaten by neo-Nazis and secret police.
Lt. Choi has appeared frequently on national and international news programs. He currently serves on the Advisory Boards of Marriage Equality USA and the American Foundation for Equal Rights. He is a graduate of the US Army Scout Leaders Course, Air Assault School, and Parachutist School.
Marriage Equality USA is thrilled to welcome Stuart Milk to the Adviosry Board. Stuart Milk formed the start up Not-for-Profit Harvey Milk Foundation and the Harvey Milk Global Human Rights Institute to advise, assist and support LGBT rights organizations, movements and advocates worldwide with a primary mission to help achieve equality through the story and message of his late Uncle in all corners of the globe and to fulfill Harvey's dream of a world without discrimination and a world without hate. Stuart sees the cornerstone of his work, in the collective critical mission for global equality, to spread the inspiring story of Harvey Milk and his example of building bridges with other diverse, often marginalized communities along with putting a very real and identifiable human face on the quest for LGBT equality.
Mr. Milk has worked with and alongside local and national LGBT organizations on six continents in both official matters with legislative and governmental entities as well as in capacity building events and demonstrations. He has been an official delegate in sister city visits abroad and often serves as a representative and liaison for formal and informal dialogue with foreign policy leaders. He frequently gives major keynote addresses at political conferences and conventions, international congresses, LGBT pride events, public demonstrations and parades, film and educational festivals, equality summits, and NGO and non-profit capacity building fundraising events.
Stuart's first public address as an out-LGBT activist took place at Oberlin College in 1984, where Stuart along with the Academy Award winning producer of The Times of Harvey Milk, Richard Schmeiken, together addressed a crowd of thousands on the vital importance to the LGBT equality movement in remembering and celebrating his Uncle Harvey Milk as a civil rights hero on par with Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez and Ghandi. Over two decades later, Stuart's voice still gives rise to the story and lessons of his Uncle Harvey Milk.
Today, Stuart Milk has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles, speaking in more then 40 states in the US and over two dozen countries on six continents. His diverse work ranges from standing together with local human rights activists in the Middle East and facing off armored troop barricades to his acceptance of dozens of awards on behalf of his late uncle including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Obama in the summer of 2009 and the California Hall of Fame Medal from Governor Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver in December 2009. Mr. Milk is also the recipient of numerous national and international Civil and Human rights awards in his own right including in 2009, the Equality Champion Award from Equality California in the United States and Spain's Cultural Authenticity and Courage award in Madrid.
In addition to his work on the Foundation, he serves on the full boards and advisory councils of several national and international human rights and youth advocacy organizations. For the last two decades, Mr. Milk has been a human services advocate in both the public and private sector serving at-risk youth, the elderly, dislocated workers and the economically disadvantaged. This work continues in his current full time employment as Vice President for Government and Constituent Relations for a Global Human Services Company.
Although Stuart often is quoted for remembrances of his intimate conversations with his late Uncle, he himself strives to continue the work his Uncle started with an ultimate goal to eradicate discrimination directed towards any and all marginalized minority communities- Mr. Milk feels he a nd all that follow in his Uncle's footsteps will have fully honored the Harvey Milk legacy when minority discrimination, inclusive of LGBT discrimination and LGBT prejudice, both legal AND societal, has been halted and equality becomes the norm not only in the US but throughout the globe.It imposed a zero-tolerance policy against deception, or hiding behind comfort.
Based in East Los Angeles, Christine's responsibilities include raising public awareness to protect the civil rights of farm workers and the larger immigrant community. Over the last eight years, she has helped elect candidates, pass legislation and oversee public outreach activities. Latina Magazine recently named her as one of their top Latinas of 2004 for her longtime involvement with civil rights issues -- in particular her work since 2002 to give same sex couples to right to marry under the law. Christine displayed a commitment to the labor movement at an early age. In the ensuing years her commitment has extended to other unions. She was engaged in SEIU, Local 1877's battle against LAX. She fought in UNITE HERE Local 11's battle against the hotel industry. And she organized rallies in support of UFCW's protracted Southern California strike.
Every year, Christine oversees the annual Cesar Chavez Walk where over 10,000 people gather to honor the legacy of the great labor leader. She is responsible for mobilizing schools, colleges, unions, churches and community groups. Troubled by the escalating violence between Latinos and African Americans, Chavez worked with Reverend Al Sharpton to organize a march to correspond with the Watts riots of 40 years ago. Her work is based on the values passed down to her from her grandfather: the fight for civil rights, social justice and labor equality.
SYLVIA RHUE, Ph.D.
Sylvia Rhue, Ph.D., is the Director of Religious Affairs and Constituency Development for the National Black Justice Coalition. She is a Bible scholar, licensed clinical social worker, writer and sexologist. She's one of the cofounders of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and a board member of the ONE Institute.
Ms. McDevitt-Pugh grew up in Redwood City, California where her family still resides, however Martha is presently a permanent resident of the Netherlands. Lack of any kind of recognition for same-sex families for immigration purposes in the USA led her to leave behind her career as a senior manager in Silicon Valley in 2000 to join her Australian partner Lin Pugh, who she legally married in 2001 in the Netherlands the first year marriages between same-sex couples were being recognized. She works as a professional writer for an international financial services group where she is has a leadership role in the gay and lesbian employees association.
Martha is the founder and chair of the Love Exiles Foundation, . The mission of the foundation is to empower people and organizations to work together to shift immigration and other laws to support binational GLBT families. Love Exiles works with US-based groups such as Immigration Equality, Out4Immigration, Love Sees No Borders and Human Rights Watch to gain support in Congress for the Uniting American Families Act, which would include same-sex partners of US citizens and residents in family-based immigration law. Love Exiles also has online communities in the UK, Canada, Germany, and Australia that support US citizens who have left their homes to be with their partners.
Kaplan a poet originally from New York City, has been teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area for over twenty years. Ms. Kaplan received her B.A. in English/Creative Writing Concentration from Syracuse University, 1975 and her M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies, Creative Arts from San Francisco State University, 1983. She is a master poet-teacher through California Poets in the Schools and regularly conducts creative writing and poetry workshops in public schools. Additionally, she has served as President of the Board for that organization from 1991-1996. She is an active member of the Community Colleges and Pedagogy Committees for the Associated Writing Programs and has selected poetry as a member of the editorial board for Americas Review and Tea Cup.
Tobey Kaplan currently teaches courses in reading, literature, creative writing and composition at several San Francisco Bay Area community colleges as well as humanities, literature and business writing to working adults. Ms. Kaplan has given workshops and presentations throughout the country regarding creative process, poetry, literacy and social change.
DAVINA KOTULSKI, Ph.D.
Dr. Davina Kotulski, is a psychologist, life coach, and author of Why You Should Give A Damn About Gay Marriage (2004) and Love Warriors: The Rise of the Marriage Equality Movement and Why it Will Prevail (2010). Davina has spoken to thousands of people around the country and is a highly sought after public speaker.
She has appeared on CNN, in Newsweek, Time and USA Today and in a dozen documentaries including: Freedom to Marry, and Pursuit of Equality. Davina has received numerous awards for her marriage equality advocacy including the "Saints Alive Award" from the Metropolitan Community Church, the Michael Switzer Leadership Award from New Leaf Counseling Center, and she was sainted by the Sisters' of Perpetual Indulgence.
Davina has a private therapy practice in Northern California and an international tele-coaching practice. She leads empowerment workshops and tele-seminars called How to Come Out of the Closet and Into Your Power! and Fearless Queerness supporting LGBTIQ people and straight allies to come out with confidence. Her personal website is www.davinakotulski.com and her book website is www.lovewarriorsthebook.com.
An accomplished and passionate activist since the age of 8 years old, for many years Marina Gatto was a constant fixture in the media, as a spokesperson and leader for the LGBTIQ community. As a child of two lesbian moms, Ramona & Arzu Gatto, Marina educates people nationwide about LGBTIQ families and their children, and about the pride that she has in her family and in her community. Marina was an inspiration for youth of the LGBTIQ community, for youth nationwide, and was a voice for LGBTIQ families and a leader in the LGBTIQ community. She helped to change the landscape of society, educating nationally on the importance of equality for all people, all families, and all children through her tireless activism.
Marina has received numerous awards for her advocacy work including: Chosen by Cosmogirl Magazine as one of their top 10 Born to Lead Cosmogirl's of the year 2005. Winner of the 2005 Equality Advocacy Award by Equality California in August, 2005, Winner of the Creating Change Award on behalf of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 2005, Recipient of the 2006 National Hispanic Hertiage Award, and honored by San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, declaring 24 June 2003 Marina Gatto Day in San Francisco.