HRC Austin announces honorees for 2016 Gala 

Austin’s first transgender police officer Gregory Abbink to receive Visibility Award; Scandal’s Guillermo Diaz to be honored

Gregory AbbinkCelebrating its 21st year, the Human Rights Campaign Austin’s annual Gala has been one of the most successful in the country, raising record funding to support civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, and receiving national recognition. The black-tie event will be held at the J.W. Marriott on Saturday, January 30th, at 7 p.m., with approximately 700 people expected to attend.

This year’s theme, On the Shoulders of Giants, is intended to recognize every person who helped make 2015 a banner year for LGBT equality, according to co-chairs Lyn
n Currie and Matt Smith.

The Bettie Naylor Award will be awarded to Austin’s first openly transgender police officer Gregory Abbink.  Currently a senior police officer working the department’s Training Academy, Abbink began his career at APD in 2004 as a patrol officer and also worked as a District Representative.  Before entering law enforcement, Abbink served for four years in the U.S. Army in military intelligence. 

Abbink came out as transgender in April of 2014 when he began his transition. Since then, his story has been featured in the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Austin Chronicle, and KUT radio. He was also featured in the book Out to Protect by Greg Miraglia. By sharing his story, Abbink hopes to inspire others and bring more awareness to the struggles and challenges still faced by transgender individuals today.

HRC Austin will also recognize actor Guillermo Diaz (currently starring as Huck in ABC’s “Scandal”) with the national Visibility Award. Diaz will be featured in an upcoming episode of the HBO series Girls, and he will also appear with James Franco in the independent film Oscillate Wildly. Diaz was born in 1975 in New Jersey to Cuban parents, and grew up in New York City.

Diaz is openly gay, and in 2011 he told Out magazine that his rough upbringing in New York City ultimately made him a better actor. He said: “I went to school in the Bronx. I learned to constantly try to cover up the fact that I was gay. That façade of being somebody I’m really not just to protect myself definitely helped with acting.” 

Additional speakers will include Mayor Steve Adler; KVUE anchor Tyler Sieswerda, who will serve as master of ceremonies; HRC President Chad Griffin; Texas’ first legally married lesbian couple Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend; comedian Dana Goldberg; and Proposition 8 plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo. Entertainment will be by singer Crystal Waters, known for her hits Gypsy Woman and 100% Pure Love.  

HRC Austin Gala sponsors include Presenting Sponsor BBVA Compass; Diamond Sponsors Apple, Coca-Cola, and AT&T; Gold Sponsors Deloitte, Wells Fargo Advisors, Roscoe Properties; Bronze Sponsors Dropbox, American Bank, and Charlie Phillips. 

A few tickets are still available to the Gala, which sells out every year. Tickets are $300 and can be purchased online at

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