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Darren Criss, Adam Lambert and Melissa Etheridge help Family Equality Council raise $571,000

Annual event in LA has become one of hottest tickets on the LGBTI calendar and Gay Star News was there
Darren_Criss at Family Equality Council dinner
Photos by Greg Hernandez

Melissa Etheridge spent so much time on the arrivals line she didn't get into the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios until Darren Criss was almost done performing the opening number.

The singer was one of the last stars to arrive at the Family Equality Council Los Angeles Awards Dinner on Saturday (7 February) - an event that in just a few short years has become one of hottest LGBTI events on the calendar.

Adam Lambert caused quite a buzz on the red carpet then later inside with his stirring rendition of Mad World before an audience that included Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy, Star Trek icon George Takei, NCIS star Pauley Perrette, and reigning Dancing With the Stars champ Amber Riley of Glee.

Also present was Cougar Town star Busy Phillips, actor Tim Allen, former NBA player Jason Collins, Desperate Housewives alum Tuc Watkins, Glee cast member Alex Newell, and several cast members of ABC's Scandal including Tony Goldwyn, Scott Foley and the event's co-chair Dan Bucatinsky.

'It's amazing that everyone is here,' honoree Jennifer Tyrrell told Gay Star News before the start of the dinner. 'They do so much good work for people like me.'

Tyrrell is the mom who was her son’s Cub Scouts leader until she was kicked out because of her is a lesbian. She launched a Change.org petition that is seen as the impetus for the Boy Scouts changing their rules to allow gay scouts.

In two short years, she's gone from relative anonymity to a LGBTI celebrity who invited Takei to sit at her table and was thrilled to meet Etheridge for the first time on the red carpet.

'It's amazing,' she said. 'It's amazing.'

Inside, presenter Zach Wahls praised Tyrrell’s 'refusal to accept discrimination' and said: 'Jennifer is what courage looks like … she stood up for parents who are LGBTQ everywhere.'

Tyrrell (pictured above with Etheridge) received a rousing standing ovation from the crowd that brought her to tears.

'Wow, I wasn’t expecting that actually,' she said as she wiped away tears.

'You deserve it!' yelled one audience member as the crowd again erupted in applause.

Tyrrell talked about all that has happened in the two years since she launched her fight and said: ‘Wheels of change are in motion … we are at a critical turning point in history and we can’t stop now. I’m proud to be a small part of that. I’m proof that one voice can make a difference.’

Also honored were Peter Paige and Brad Bredeweg (pictured above), creators and executive producers of the ABC Family hit The Fosters.

Paige chatted with GSN before entering the event and said that since the Family Equality Council promotes the health and welfare of LGBT families, The Fosters is 'a perfect alliance' since it is about an LGBT family.

'This award isn't about us - it's about visibility and the important work that they do,' said Paige, best known for his five seasons playing Emmett on Showtime's Queer as Folk.

Paige, clearly moved by the award, said straight away once he got to the stage: ‘I’m not going to get through this without crying.’

He was tearful because he was deeply moved by who he called ‘the real heroes of this fight’ like Tyrrell.

Paige told the audience he is ‘baffled’ that so many among the far right wing in the US could be threatened by LGBT families and said such opposition ‘is appalling and it has to stop. That’s why we’re all here tonight.’

While there was emotion during the evening, there was also plenty of humor.

Host Alec Mapa opened up the show by referring to himself as 'Vladimir Putin's worst nightmare.'

Mapa wonders how people in places like the US midwest could be so threatened by gays: 'My husband and I, there's no way we could bring about the end of civilization as we know it. We're exhausted! We've been folding laundry for the past six months. We're just like any other American family.'

Mapa and his husband are raising a 9 year old son and were among the many parents in the audience for an event benefitting an organization that works to support LGBT parents and their children.

When Murphy took the stage to introduce a musical performance of Who You Are by Riley, he noted: 'The first year I came to this event I was single ... the second year I was married and now os the third time and I have a one year old.'

Murphy had been introduced by Criss who was a huge hit with the crowd as he joined castmate Newell to auction off a tour of the set of Glee plus lunch and more.

‘Its once in a lifetime opportunity so dont f*ck up and miss it!’ he said before adding: ‘Are there kids here?’

Criss had been a bit of a potty mouth earlier when he announced to the crowd that the bar was way outside in lobby: ‘It’s horsesh*t! C’mon!’

But his auction skills helped the event raise a record $571,000 - a record for the LA event.

Etheridge closed the show by taking the stage with her guitar to perform her new song Uprising of Love, an anthem, she wrote in support of LGBTI people in Russia.

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