LOS ANGELES -- The HRC Gala Dinner was held in Los Angeles on Saturday, a black-tie affair centered around the groundbreaking work of the organization. Vice President Joe Biden provided a moving keynote speech, calling for the United States to be a champion for LGBT equality throughout the globe.
San Diego was well-represented at the gala. The sole female military representative at the event was a San Diegan: U.S. Army Capt. Tara Harre, who attended with her partner Kathryn Cloward.
Tara, who has served in the Army for 18 years, was recommended by a friend to HRC, and referred her to Sue LaVaccare from Lambda Legal. They were enthusiastic to have the opportunity for a decorated female Army officer in full uniform attend the gala with her partner.
Excited and a bit nervous, Tara and Kathryn were honored to be invited to an event at which Biden was to be the keynote speaker. Upon arrival, the president of HRC, Chad Griffin, went out of his way to greet them and have a photo taken with them.
Tara said she found it “incredibly inspiring to be in the company of so many people who had been working tirelessly for equality.” And she received no shortage of praise for her service in the Army. Over the course of the evening, numerous people approached Tara to thank her for serving the country and complimenting her and Kathryn’s presence.
Tara said she was among those moved by Biden’s keynote address, which frankly and honestly touched upon pressing LGBT issues at home and abroad. She had nothing but praise for the Vice President:
"Biden was incredible! His speech was engaging and inspiring, as he quoted people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Harvey Milk, and other notable leaders for human rights; but most importantly, throughout his entire speech, I could hear and feel the passion for his pursuit of equality in the LGBT community. It was clear that the current administration really does have a heart for the LGBT community, and his "hope" to provide a more equal life for generations to come, made me feel proud to be in the presence of such monumental efforts."
With a military career spanning almost two decades, Tara knows exactly what Biden meant when he called for LGBT equality on all levels. The Army has seen worlds of change since Tara began her career. Starting out in Special Operations, there were very few opportunities for a female recruit. But slowly, over time, attitudes changed along with the variety of work available. Tara went on to become the first female paratrooper in her unit, participating in five foreign airborne operations amid what was very much a “male dominated military” at the time. Today, after 18 years of service to the United States, she is under review for promotion to Major. “It feels great that I am able to live my truth and serve my country as a leader,” she said.
The removal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy has changed the face of the military, in Tara’s opinion. Last July, for Family Day, Tara attended with Kathryn and their son. Not only was this met with a welcoming embrace from her peers and superior officers, Tara felt that it blazed the trail for others to feel more comfortable being "out" and participating in family events.
As San Diego natives (Kathryn was born and raised, Tara has been here since she was 4 years old), what the couple would like to see more of in the local LGBT community is visibility and opportunities for families.
"There are so many families in San Diego that are seeking others (like us) beyond meet up groups. Seeing human interest stories about couples and their children would allow others to feel a greater sense of commonality."
On the other hand, Tara and Kathryn have a special place in their heart for the local community. Most notably, Tara acknowledges the LGBT services offered by The Center while she was first coming out. San Diego has provided a vast array of local eateries, events and networking through which Tara and Kathryn have connected with other same sex-parents within the LGBT community. By all accounts, the couple represented the San Diego community with distinction at the HRC gala.
UPDATE: Photo tag has been removed at the request of the person pictured.