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By Matthew Lavietes
NEW YORK, April 26 (Openly) - American comedian Billy Eichner and Canadian YouTube star Lilly Singh on Sunday kicked off an event of music, comedy and personal stories to raise funds for the LGBT+ community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Pop musicians, actors and politicians mainly from the United States, all performed or gave rallying calls from their homes during the "Together in Pride: You Are Not Alone" livestream to support LGBT+ community centres across the country.
"If these community centres have to close their doors, that means that LGBTQ kids may not have a meal. It means they might not have a place to go," singer and actress Barbara Streisand said by telephone.
The livestream event featured former U.S. presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, Jonathan Van Ness from "Queer Eye", pop star Kesha, and actors Rosie O'Donnell and Billy Porter.
Curated by GLAAD, a U.S.-based LGBT+ advocacy group, the event, which raised over $225,000, was the latest celebrity effort to mark the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people worldwide.
Community centres are a critical part of the social safety net for LGBT+ people in the U.S., providing food, shelter, cash assistance and medical services to those who fall through gaps in government safety nets and cannot rely on family for help.
But just as COVID-19 is causing a surge in demand for their services, it is also straining the funding of charities.
With revenue streams dried up, fundraising events canceled and no relief in sight, some centres are being forced to close.
"If they shut their doors at this time, there are going to be a lot of members in our community who will be in dire straits, who really need help," said "Suits" actor Matt Bomer.
Other segments in the fundraiser highlighted greater LGBT+ visibility in the entertainment industry, celebrity coming out stories, the stigma surrounding people living with HIV, and the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
The United States has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, with more than 939,000 infections and about 50,000 deaths.
(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes; Editing by Michael Taylor; credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.
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