BY: Lynn Elber
LOS ANGELES – ‘Modern Family,’ the Emmy award-winning comedy with two gay partners and their adopted baby among its cast of characters, will be saluted by a tolerance group for the TV show’s openhearted view of families.
But the real focus of Friday’s GLSEN Respect Awards, held by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the timeliness of the organization’s two-decade effort to reduce anti-gay bullying in schools nationwide.
This year’s ceremony in Beverly Hills follows a series of teenage suicides, including that of a Rutgers University student who killed himself after his dorm-room sexual encounter with another man was streamed online.
“The nation’s attention has been captured by exactly those issues that motivate our work every day,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN executive director. “We’re doing everything we can every day to make sure that schools are places where young people feel valued and respected and no young person should succumb to despair.”
The group helps create gay-straight student alliances to foster understanding and a safer environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students or those questioning their sexual identity, Byard said.
Harassment and physical assaults are common among these students, she said.
Members of the ‘Modern Family’ cast, which includes Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet, were expected to attend the GLSEN event. Stonestreet won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Cameron, partner to Mitchell (played by Ferguson).
The two characters are parents to an adopted Vietnamese girl. Another family on the show includes a youngster, Manny (Rico Rodriguez), a round-faced charmer who is straight but faces bullying because he isn’t a typical kid.
The series was honored with the best comedy award at last month’s Emmys.
An online auction is being held as a companion fundraiser to the GLSEN awards, with a chance to audition for the casting director of ‘Modern Family,’ Jeff Greenberg, among the offerings.
The other dozen-plus items up for bid include two tickets to the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s Oscar party in February, walk-on roles in HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire‘ and ‘True Blood,’ and attendance at a script reading for ‘Family Guy.’
Bidding is open until Oct. 15.
GLSEN, a nonprofit organization, is based in New York and has more than 30 local chapters nationwide.
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