Tony Awards Attendees Support LGBTQ+ Community & Denounce Ron DeSantis In Speeches

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Various attendees at the 2023 Tony Awards on June 11 took time to slam anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ+ laws while onstage at the ceremony. While presenting the Excellence In Theatre Education award, Denee Benton specifically called out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who recently announced his bid for president in 2024. In her speech, she likened Ron to a Ku Klux Klan leader.

“Earlier tonight [Carnegie Melon University] and the Tony Awards presented the 2023 Excellence In Theatre Education Award,” Denee, who was presenting the award to a student from Florida, said. “And while I am certain that the current Grand Wizard — I’m sorry, excuse me, governor, of my home state of Florida….I am sure that he will be changing the name of this following town immediately. We were honored to present this award to the truly incredible and life-changing Jason Zembuch Young, enhancing the lives at students at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida.” DeSantis has made headlines for his passing of laws like the Don’t Say Gay bill during his time in office.

Meanwhile, Michael Arden also made a powerful statement when he took the stage to accept the Best Director of a Musical award. His speech did not reference DeSantis directly, but did take aim at anyone discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community.

“Growing up, I was called the f-word more times than I can count,” Michael said. “But now I’m a f***** with a Tony!” Marcia Gay Harden directly took a shot at DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay Bill by saying, “I’m Marcia — and no matter what state we’re in we can always say Gay — Harden,” she said.

All of these statements were met with major applause from those in the audience, as well as support online. The remarks were also self-written, as the Tonys went on without a writing staff this year amidst the Writers’ Strike. Ariana DeBose also hosted the event without writers for her script.

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