On October 19, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada celebrated its 20th annual Honorarium, a yearly gala recognizing individuals committed to the progress of the Valley’s LGBTQ community.
Local community members were honored, and the Center gave its first-ever Qmmunity Advocate Award, for national public figures with “widespread influence within the LGBTQ community,” to television personality Ross Mathews. While Mathews’ presence was intended to be the highlight of the event, it was actually the Center’s Corporation of the Year honoree, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, that ended up stealing the show.
Given the history of anti-gay comments by fighters and UFC representatives, some local organizations questioned the honor. The Culinary Union sent a letter co-signed by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and the Clark County Young Democrats, among others, urging the Center to reconsider, despite a reported $200,000 donation from the UFC to the Center.
However, the Center’s Honorarium chair, Jon Sparer, insisted the money did not motivate the award.
“They are willing and actively working to change their own culture and working to change the hearts and minds of everybody,” Sparer said. “You’re not going to change the world by ignoring those types of people or companies. By working with them is how you effect change.”
While receiving its honor, the UFC announced a new HIV prevention awareness campaign, aptly titled Protect Yourself at All Times. A partnership with the Center’s LGBTQ+ program, the national campaign will be implemented in coming weeks leading up to World AIDS Day on December 1. It will include public service announcements, advertisements and appearances by UFC fighters and personalities at centers that offer free HIV tests and services. Fighters Forrest Griffin and Liz Carmouche, the first openly gay UFC fighter, will serve as spokespeople.
“Yes, there were some bad things that were said in the past,” Sparer said. “But we’re not dwelling on that. We’re moving forward and looking at how we can effect change.”