LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The stars — gay and straight, old and young, legends and newcomers — stepped out on the rainbow carpet Saturday evening to celebrate the LGBT Center’s 50th birthday.
Many of the stars weren’t born when the center was established to help gay youth flourish in what hasn’t always been a welcoming world.
The “Hearts of Gold Concert” was held at the Greek Theatre in Hollywood.
CBS2/KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen was on the rainbow carpet rubbing elbows with the likes of Jane, Lily, Jennifer, Kathy and well-known “Survivor” contestant Zeke Smith, who is transgender.
“This is a community that mobilizes so quickly that I will say maybe more progress has been made in the LGBT community than any other group in the history of this country,” said Kathy Griffin, an outspoken gay ally.
Partners Zeke Smith and actor Nico Santos (Oliver T’Sien of “Crazy Rich Asians” fame) say the center does more than just fight for equality.
“The center has a full range of social services for the community. Everything from low-cost, sliding-scale health care. Not just for members of the LGBT community,” says Smith.
Santos talked about how the center literally kept him afloat during his lean years as a newcomer to Los Angeles.
“I moved to LA about 10 years ago. I was so broke. And I didn’t have insurance,” Santos says, “The only place I could turn to was the center. Was how I was able to get health care.”
Jeff Rohrer was the first National Football League player (1982-1987)) to acknowledge that he was in a same-sex marriage. He explained to Nguyen why coming out in 1982 was not an option back in the day.
“I was afraid that the league wouldn’t be supportive, because it was a different time when I was playing, for sure. It definitely would not have been okay to be gay. But now it’s getting better.”
But it hasn’t gotten better for everyone according to Chuck Archie.
He runs the only LGBTQ Center in the entire state of South Carolina – where he says equality is still a struggle in the Bible Belt.
“We live in a right to work state where anybody can be fired at any time. As a matter of fact, one of my friends, 52-years old, committed suicide about six months ago because he came out a work,” says Archie.
The center started as a series of safe houses called Freedom Houses — to often provide shelter to gay runaway teens but now it offers so many services to people of all ages.