Well-known faces from the worlds of media, television, music, politics and the arts were all full of hope about Barack Obama at last night’s annual Stonewall Awards.
The 47-year-old African-American President-elect of the United States gave heart to LGBTs across the world when he mentioned gay people as part of the makeup of the country in his victory speech on Tuesday.
News that voters in California had approved Proposition 8, a ballot measure that will alter the state’s constitution to ban gay marriage, less than four months since same-sex couples were granted that right by the courts, was also a hot topic.
Here are some of the guests’ reactions to the historic events of US Election Day 2008.
Soul star Beverley Knight.
“Oh my God, I cried, I screamed, I stayed up until four in the morning and then went to sleep. When I woke up at eight I was so happy.
“In my head I thought he could do it but my head wanted it so badly. To wake up and know the world was going to change.
“I cannot ever remember an American statesman, never mind President, even mentioning anybody gay. I cannot tell you how chuffed I am.”
Patrick Harvie MSP, nominee for Politician of the Year.
“I wept. I did not get to bed until 6.30am. I was at a bash the US consulate was throwing. It was an historic acceptance speech.
“The fact he mentioned gay people in his speech slightly took the edge off the vote in California.”
Beverley Knight, Mark Feehily with partner.
Dr Miriam Stoppard, winner of Journalist of the Year.
“I burst into tears, because I have relatives who are mixed-race.
“My niece Oona King, has a white mother and a black father, and a white grandmother, and her father is originally from Kenya.
“So it seemed like everything my family stood for had a place. I cried the whole day – this man is a beacon of hope for us. I think the world will never be the same again.”
Sue Perkins, winner of Entertainer of the Year.
“To say the change is coming is an understatement. I am hugely delighted and relieved and all my American friends are happy they can finally feel proud about their own country, and that is a huge thing, they can feel proud to be part of a new start.
“Admittedly our new start turned out to be something of a damp squib. The fact that in his speech spoke not just of the diversity and ethnicity of the States but mentioned gay people and straight people – he is the first President to address the wider community and not everyone is a gun-toting, tobacco-chewing redneck from Texas. May he live long and prosper.”
Lord Alli, winner of Politician of the Year.
“I reacted with huge pride and a sense of achievement. It was extraordinary that he could mention gay people in his speech.
“With hope came a bit of despair – in California they could vote for a black man to become President of the United States but reject Proposition 8 on gay marriage. So yes there is hope, but it shows we have to a long way to go.”
Emily Thornberry MP, nominee for Politcian of the Year.
“It was fantastic – I lost half of my office and I lost my eldest boy to Nevada where they all went off and helped – I was very, very jealous.
“I think its absolutely brilliant and I hope we will get the change we will need. They are our closest friends and I think it is important that we have a President that reflects Britain as well.”
Joe Galliano, editor of GT.
“I was delighted but also very disappointed about Prop 8.
“119 words, one minute and five seconds in (Barack Obama’s victory speech) there we were and it was unprecedented – it marks a great hope which he now has to try to live up to.”
Mark Feehily of Westlife.
“I think it is fantastic. In the last ten years I have not said much about politics because I do not think you should speak publicly unless you are educated about the exact matter at hand, but I think it is great. He seems really new and fresh and I think he will do good things for the image of the American President.”
Amy Lame, nominee for Entertainer of the Year.
“As an American, Barack Obama winning the Presidency is something I never in a million years dreamed of and it really is like a dream come true. Finally I do not have to lie and tell people I am Canadian – I never really did really but you know what I mean.
“I just know that this is going to be such an amazing time for America as a country – and the world! It changes British people’s attitude to America.
“I have seen a lot of anti-Americanism over the last eight years. I hope this puts paid to all that negativity and snobbishness and that British people can see Americans for what they really are, which is friendly and wanting a future and wanting to be part of the wider world.”
Ben Bradshaw MP, Minister for Health and nominee for Politician of the Year.
“I am still experiencing waves of elation and emotion, before it happened I had so contained my hope, and I did not want to be disappointed and I was worried the polls were wrong. Little things like seeing a picture of or reading a testimony from an elderly African-American is enough to set me off.
“I have got four mixed-race godchildren, and the difference it is going to make to them is immeasurable and the fact he mentioned gay people in his first sentence of his victory address.
“He had also been talking about gay people during the whole campaign and not just to gay audiences. It is so fantastic. I hope he heralds a change in America that the 97 election held for gay people in Britain.”
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall.
“I think it is an inspiration to hundreds of millions of young people across the world that for the first time they can believe that all their dreams can come true, however they were born.”
Stella Duffy, winner of Writer of the Year.
“I am delighted. It was (Obama’s reference to) gay and straight – I was in floods of tears and they played the whole speech on Radio 4 yesterday morning. I was in the shower and I was in floods of tears and so excited. Then my heart broke with Prop 8 the next day. It is very hard to lay all this on one man.”
Chris Bryant MP, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.
“I am absolutely delighted – I only wish the people of California had voted the right way on Prop 8.”
Richard Wilson, presenter of the Stonewall Awards.
“It just fills me with hope and I am thrilled – anything to get rid of George Bush. He has got great style, such ease in his body language, he is so confident. I trust him.”
Sarah Waters, author.
“It is just an amazing thing. I was quite a Hillary fan and I had my reservations about him. But to see a black guy in there is amazing.”