Last night, during the Family Equality Council's 10th annual Night at the Pier, the organization dedicated to advocating for LGBTQ families honored filmmaker Lee Daniels who is also an openly gay father of twins. It seemed especially appropriate since his most recent hit, the TV show Empire, depicts a family with an openly gay son, Jamal, played by gay actor Jussie Smollett.
Empire co-stars Taraji P. Henson and Jussie Smollett, surprise guests at the event, presented Daniels with the award. "I now know what it means to have an amazing, gay father," Smollett said. "He's made me more of a truthful man."
Henson, who plays Cookie, Jamal's mother, added: "I want to thank you, Lee, for using your talent for changing lives and allowing people to be who they are," saying that the show "can be a voice for people who don't have a voice."
According to ETOnline, Daniels "appeared giddy" to be honored in such a manner. In his speech, he mentioned his mother, as well as his former partner Billy Hopkins, who he was with when he first became a father by adopting his incarcerated brother's two kids, Clara and Liam. He also mentioned his current partner, stylist Jahil Fisher. Daniels's son Liam was also in attendance to share in the celebration.
"I was not saving them, they were saving me," Daniels said, referring to his children, and reminding the crowd he was an addict himself at the time. "Since then, I've been sober."
Family Equality Council Executive Director Gabriel Blau also gave a moving speech at the event, telling the story about when he was on the Supreme Court steps the day of the family equality arguments, where just 20 feet away, speakers at an anti-LGBTQ family rally spoke of "faith." As Blau points out, however, that group uses "faith" to scare, while his organization uses "faith" to unite.