BEVERLY HILLS — It was a night to celebrate, but the mood was subdued on the arrivals line at the GLSEN Respect Awards, presented by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
ABC's Emmy-winning sitcom "Modern Family" was honored Friday night for its portrayal of a diverse America, including a family headed by a gay couple, played by actors Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet.
And yet some of the event's celeb attendees said the recent string of widely reported bully-inspired gay-teen suicides is proof that acceptance still has a long way to go.
"I do have the same sort of mixed feeling, in the light of everything that's happened," noted Ferguson, who is openly gay. "However, I think an event like this echoes the sentiment that we need to change. This cannot continue happening."
The Emmy-nominated Ferguson, 34, said he was "very bullied" in school.
"I actually had to leave eighth grade and go to another school because it got so bad, so I certainly sympathize with these kids," he noted, adding that bullied students should keep reminding themselves that school won't last forever. "Honestly, back at my 10-year reunion, I didn't even remember any of those bullies' names. Frankly, they weren't doing nearly as good as me. So, it was very vindicating."
Ferguson's Colombian-born co-star, Sofia Vergara, said acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Latin community "is very hard, because it's very taboo," she explained.
"The Latin community is a very Catholic community," continued Vergara, 38. "So, it's always a problem for people to accept it, and they live in denial for many years, the parents, and prefer not to address the problem. And that's when tragedies and things happen. And, you know, it's hard. You're not going to change things in one day."
Others in attendance included the event's host, director Rob Reiner, as well as actresses Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin from "Big Love."
Actress Florence Henderson walked the red carpet with her "Dancing With the Stars" partner Corky Ballas, and discussed her big gay fan base. "Well, 'The Brady Bunch Variety Hour' was enough to seal me with the gay community forever," Henderson said, with a laugh.