The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Celebvocate: Kelly Rutherford on equal rights in family court

One in an occasional series on the stars who bring their causes to Washington. Friday’s visitor:  Kelly Rutherford.

Event: A luncheon honoring the National Organization for Women.

Setting: The Ritz-Carlton downtown.

Bona fides: Starred on CW’s “Gossip Girl”; also seen on “Melrose Place” and multiple TV movies.

Backups: NOW President Terry O’Neill and Natalie Khawam (twin sister is Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite caught up in the David Petraeus scandal), who threw the lunch because NOW filed a friend-of-the-court brief on her behalf in her custody battle.

What she wants: Equal rights in family court. (Her point: In an attempt to make sure fathers’ rights are protected, women sometimes are shortchanged.) The actress, 45, is embroiled in an international custody dispute with her ex-husband; despite joint custody, her two kids live in France with their father. Rutherford said she’s gone bankrupt from legal fees as she has fought to bring her children back to the United States.

How she looked: Lovely but subdued, in a black sweater and black skirt, hair pulled back.

How she sounded: Emotional, though determined, as she talked about Hermes, 7, and Helena, 4. Rutherford told the audience that women stop her on the street and start crying, saying they’re afraid to leave bad marriages because of stories like hers.

Sound bite: “I know this sounds absurd, like one of those over-the-top television movies I’ve actually acted in, but this is real life. This is my life.”

Read more about recent celebvocates and even more about celebvocates from past years.

More Reliable Source: Steve Harvey; Joaquin Castro; Khloe Kardashian; Ted Cruz; David Rubenstein; Alex Ovechkin; Gloden Globe snubs; George W. Bush; Taye Diggs; Sean Burch