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A chat w/Wilson Cruz at Liberty Awards about his activism, coming out, and the fight for LGBT rights

There was a bit of a buzz Tuesday night about Tori Spelling being too ill to host Lambda Legal’s 2009 Liberty Awards.

But once the program at the Egyptian Theatre was underway, you realized that the real stars of the event were the honorees and Lambda Legal itself which is fighting battles on behalf of LGBT folks throughout the nation. I’ll recap the evening for you in a future post but first wanted to share an interview I did on the red carpet with honoree Wilson Cruz.

Q. This isn’t an Oscar, this is being honored for your activism. What are your thoughts on being honored by Lambda Legal?

Wilson Cruz: I’m not gonna lie, it’s overwhelming. This organization and myself are both 35 years old. I owe this organization a great deal for the fact that I am able to live the life that I’ve been able to live. I am a direct product of their work and to have them bestow and honor on me is overwhelming. I hope that I can live up to it in some way.

Q. Lambda Legal seems a lot more low-profile that say Human Rights Campaign and yet it’s their work on the legal front that has created change like gay marriage in California and other states.

WC: I think the reason they have been so low-profile is that they’re really doing the really hard work. Presenting these cases in court is not an easy thing and getting them to the courts to begin with is not easy. So their energy and their efforts are not in media or public relations.  Their energy and all the money that they raise really goes towards making this change happen. People like me and other openly gay celebrities can really shed a light on the work that they do and that’s one of the major reasons why I’m here.”

Q. Will you be going to Washington DC in a few weeks for the Equality March?

WC: I have endorsed the march. I have been committed to a National Coming Out Day event in Phoenix on that same day for almost a year so I’m going to honor that commitment. But I will be there in spirit completely. I wish I could be in two places at once.”

Q. What would you want to say to someone who is considering coming out.

WC: The fact that it is a difficult decision is not lost on me. It’s been 17 years since I made that decision and I still am fully away of the emotion that takes place in that moment. But if I could convince them that coming out today is probably the most powerful political tool that we have at our disposal and that if by coming out you [can change] one person’s mind, a family’s mind, a community’s mind then it’s worth it. The president talks about how one voice can change a town and a town can change a country and a country can change the world and I think coming out is one of those ways that we can change the world. When people know us, they understand us and when they understand us, they vote with us.”

Q. Let’s talk about California and the effort to repeal Proposition 8. Some people want a ballot measure in 2010 but it seems like more want to wait until 2012. Do you have a preference?

WC: Obviously I feel like the sooner the better but I think that we have a better chance of repealing it in 2012 mainly because it’s a presidential election year and more people vote in those years. But if we do the research and find out that we have a chance of winning in 2010, I’m going to work as hard in 2010 as I would in any year. Yesterday was too late as far as I’m concerned. But we have to be smart about this.”

Photos by Brian Putnam

FILE UNDER: Awards, Out Stars

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