Thursday at Equality Forum

Dining Out for Life and a gay travel expo - plus plenty of panels and parties today

Equality Forum encourages everyone to eat out today at more than 200 participating restaurants serving breakfast, lunch and dinner during Dining Out for Life to benefit AIDS organizations throughout the region. Each restaurant donates 33 percent of the total food bill to the fight against AIDS (this year, as always, many LGBT venues are participating in the event). Just click here for a complete list of eateries.

While you’re out on the town, stop by the GLBT Travel Expo at the William Way Community Center (4 p.m.) where vendors will be available to discuss great gay-friendly vacation destinations just in time for summer. Participants will also have access to special travel packages and exclusive deals at the event.

Tonight, learn more about LGBT rights at the National Legal Panel at CBS Auditorium at Hamilton Hall (7-8:15 p.m.) with moderator Brad Sears, an attorney and executive director of the Williams Institute (a co-sponsor of the event) who lectures on sexual orientation law at UCLA.

The panelists – who will discuss the legal ramifications of such issues as marriage and AIDS discrimination – include Jon W. Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal, the oldest LGBT legal organization in the country committed to representing people living with HIV and AIDS; James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT and AIDS Project; Ben Klein, senior attorney and AIDS Law Project Director of GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) who was the lead counsel in the first-ever HIV discrimination case heard by the Supreme Court; and Kenji Yoshino, an author, attorney and professor at New York University School of Law.

Also being discussed are LGBT Challenges in Latin America (8:30-9:45 p.m.) at Hamilton Hall where guests will focus on the future of gay life in the region. Michael Guest, senior advisor for Global Equality, and America’s first openly gay ambassador, will moderate the discussion about LGBT civil rights in Latin America.

Joining Guest are Dr. Javier Aguayo, an attorney and professor from York College who specializes in emerging gay rights movements in Latin America; Guillermo De Los Reyes, Ph.D., a professor at University of Houston who serves as executive director for the LGBT Studies Minor; Dulce Reyes, senior program officer for the International Fund for Sexual Minorities at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation; and Shawn Schulenberg, Ph.D., a professor of political science at Marshall University who published two books: Same-Sex Marriage in the Americas and Same-Sex Relationship Recognition in Latin America.

The Equality Forum parties officially kick off tonight with the Absolut Welcome Party at Valanni (10 p.m.-2 a.m.) where folks can mingle, nosh and sip in celebration of this year’s roster of events (Valanni is also one of the restaurants participating in Dining Out for Life this year).

Check back daily for a complete list of events at Equality Forum through May 1.