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America Ferrera backs LGBTQ rights, praises Lena Dunham at HRC gala

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Todd Williamson/Getty Images

America Ferrera is shedding some grace on the community that helped to shape her perspective on equality for all.

Speaking at the Human Rights Campaign’s Los Angeles gala on Saturday night, the Superstore star and activist championed LGBTQ rights as she accepted the advocacy organization’s Ally for Equality Award, one of two major accolades handed out to celebrity attendees throughout the evening.

“Anything I’ve ever done on behalf of the LGBTQ community, I did in service to myself,” Ferrara said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Anything I ever did for the rights of this community I did because I believe — with every fiber of my being — that my liberation is bound up in the liberation of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and in the liberation of my black brothers and sisters, and in the liberation of immigrants, and refugees, and Muslims, and Sikhs, and women all over the world, and the incarcerated, and the criminalized, and the uneducated, and the poor, and the hungry, and, and, and, and, and.

The publication indicates the capacity crowd inside the city’s JW Marriott hotel erupted with applause at Ferrara’s comments. Attendees eventually rose to their feet to give the actress a standing ovation in the middle of her 12-minute speech.

Ferrera was introduced at Saturday’s event by her friend and fellow activist Lena Dunham. The pair last shared a public stage at the Democratic National Convention in July, where they supported presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“America stayed,” Dunham said of Ferrera’s willingness to stand up for her beliefs in the wake of Clinton’s loss. “She was determined to be a part of history and a part of the democracy, and to never, ever be erased from the narrative. The next morning, through tears, she told me and she told our friends that we could not stop fighting. And America’s friends would do anything for her and so we won’t.”

RELATED VIDEO: America Ferrera joins the Women’s March on Washington

Returning Dunham’s sentiment, Ferrera said: “I have never met another artist more eager to lift up the voices of her sisterhood… I would’ve been content to admire you from afar and to gaze at your face on my vision board for the rest of our lives. To call you sister, mentor, and friend… to receive this award from you tonight is a profound honor for me.”

Before bringing her high school drama teacher, Sue Freitag, to the stage to thank her for creating a “safe space” for her throughout her formative years, Ferrera spoke about the importance of minority inclusion.

“We know that representation matters. We know this. Not just in the media but in schools, hospitals, boardrooms, halls of power. We know that it makes all the difference to see ourselves reflected by culture with dignity, with humor, with compassion,” she said. “It is how most of us learn what is possible for us, what our place in the world is. Too often we have to spend so many years unlearning what culture has taught us about who we are or ought to be, but It doesn’t have to be that way. We can change that. Every single one of us. We can leave the next generation with a better reflection of their innate worth and their inherent power simply by claiming and living in our own power.”

Later that night, pop icon Katy Perry received the group’s other major prize: the HRC National Equality Award. During her acceptance speech, she spoke about her Christian upbringing, during which she’d been “taught to fear” gay people, though she ultimately grew to accept them as “the most free, strong, kind, and inclusive people” she’d ever met.