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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 12, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 28
Victory Fund's Seattle Champagne Fundraiser
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Victory Fund's Seattle Champagne Fundraiser

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

On the morning of Sunday, July 21, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, the largest LGBT Political Action Committee in the nation will hold its first Seattle champagne brunch fundraiser at the Hyatt at Olive 8 downtown. Founded in 1991, the Victory Fund strives to 'change the face and voice of America's politics and achieve equality for LGBT Americans by increasing the number of openly LGBT officials at all levels of government.'

The Victory Fund assists LGBT candidates across the country on both strategic and financial fronts and works on campaigns at local, state and federal levels of government. Since its founding, the organization has helped lead several hundred openly LGBT candidates to victory.

'Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender office holders are our clearest and most convincing champions for true equality. As leaders in government, they become the face and voice of a community. They challenge the lies of extremists and speak authentically about themselves, their families and their community,' says the organization in their mission statement.

The champagne brunch is one of the organization's key annual fundraising events, usually held in multiple major cities across the country.

'We do about ten of these a year,' said Denis Dison, vice president of communications for the Victory Fund.

The keynote speaker at the upcoming Seattle champagne brunch will be Joel Burns, the well-known city councilman from Fort Worth, TX who became an internationally recognized name in October 2010 after speaking out at a council meeting on the issues of bullying and suicide among LGBT youth, as part of the 'It Gets Better Campaign.'

'We try to bring in speakers that people will know... that have a story to tell about the difference they've been able to make as LGBT officials,' Dison told SGN. .

Another special guest at the brunch will be Washington State Senator and Seattle mayoral candidate Ed Murray. .

'The Victory Fund will be honoring the Gay and Lesbian legislators of Washington State for their contributions to the fight for marriage equality,' Dison told SGN. 'The impact of having out people in public office has been demonstrated in places like Washington, where out officials are not just relative voices, they're leaders on the issues that matter to the LGBT community.' .

'I've been with the Victory Fund for seven years... I can remember one of the earliest races I was involved in was for Jamie Pedersen,' said Dison. 'There was a real questioning at the time from people who were backing other candidates of whether we really needed another Gay candidate in that seat.' .

Dison cited Referendum 74 as demonstrative of 'what Jamie's been able to accomplish in the House in concert with Ed in the Senate.' .

While this is the first time the Victory Fund will hold its champagne brunch fundraiser in Seattle, the organization's history with the city dates further back than Murray, whom the organization has endorsed numerous times throughout his political career, including an endorsement for his current mayoral campaign. .

The first successful candidate ever endorsed by the Victory Fund was Sherry Harris, who was elected to the Seattle City Council in November 1991. Since then, the organization has endorsed candidate after candidate in Washington and tallies the amount of out LGBT officials in the state at 33. Dison called these officials: 'a phenomenal group of people' that serve a state where now, 'LGBT people have almost full equality.' .

The organization also offers financial assistance for training programs for elected LGBT officials through a linked but separate non-profit, the Victory Institute. Last year, the Victory Institute awarded Seattle City Council President Sally Clark a large grant to attend the three-week Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. .

Dison said the Victory Fund helps to bring 'LGBT people to participate, not just to advocate in front of or demonstrate in front of.' .

'It has worked when we have taken office ourselves,' added Dison, citing Murray's work in the Washington State Senate. 'We need to replicate that success across the country.' .

The champagne brunch fundraiser will be held on Sunday, July 21 at Hyatt at Olive 8 (1635 8th Ave.) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registration and more information on the Victory Fund can be found online at: www.victoryfund.org/seattlebrunch. Individual tickets start at $125. Those interested in further assisting with fundraising can volunteer to sell a table or host their own.

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