At a time when some politicians are trying to win votes by defining gay people out of the American family, the New York City chapter of the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays plans an advertising campaign on how prominent non-gay people love their gay and lesbian relatives.
The campaign was announced in style at the group’s annual dinner at Tavern on the Green on Monday, October 11.
The advertising campaign will show how celebrities love their gay and lesbian relatives. A sneak preview of the “Stay Close” campaign was presented by PFLAG’s Suzanne Ramos and Drew Tagliabues. In January, the ads will appear on subways, buses, and billboards in New York and Washington, D.C.
The ads, which have been in the works for two years, will include pictures of Cindy Lauper with her lesbian sister Ellen, Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri) and his wife, Jane, with their lesbian daughter Chrissy, Latina talk show host Christina Sarlegui with her gay brother Ignacio, Ben Affleck with his gay cousin Jason, Barbara Cook with her gay son Adam, and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) with his gay brother John.
The New York and D.C. Metro chapters of PFLAG are sponsors of the campaign, which is getting donated ad space on public transportation from Viacom. Time, Inc. has also agreed to include the ads among the public service spots it displays in its publications. McCann Erickson Worldwide Advertising worked on the campaign pro bono.
Ramos said the ads will “let people know when a family member comes out that there is a way to handle it and a place to turn” in PFLAG.
The awards dinner had its own share of celebrated persons. It was hosted by Kyan Douglas of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” who said his own mom went to PFLAG meetings and “I noticed how much more available to me she was” after that.
In his keynote address, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan), a mayoral candidate, spoke of his two young boys. “I don’t know if either is gay, but I would love them to death whether gay or straight. I want them to grow up in a world free of inequality.”
New Paltz Mayor Jason West, who married 25 gay couples in February and was charged by the Ulster district attorney for doing so illegally, got the night’s biggest round of applause. “The goal of this is to make ourselves obsolete or forgotten. I can’t wait for the day when I don’t get applause for coming to a podium,” West said.
Also honored were the many members of the coalition—including PFLAG’s Phyllis Steinberg—that passed the Dignity in All Schools Act (DASA) and successfully overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of that anti-bullying bill. The mention of Bloomberg’s name brought some hisses from the crowd as he is blocking implementation of the school bill and the Equal Benefits Bill that requires contractors with the city to provide domestic partner benefits and is due to go into effect on October 26.
City Councilman Alan Gerson (D-Manhattan), the chief sponsor of the DASA legislation, said it was a team effort and “a very big step forward toward building a society which oppresses no one and lets everyone feel a part of the beloved community.”
Lisa Cannistraci, co-owner of the lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson, was recognized for her fundraising work in the community, particularly for the Empire State Pride Agenda and PFLAG. She praised her “supportive parents.” Her mother, Genevieve, is president of the group’s Staten Island chapter.
Finally, an award was presented to New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau by veteran activist Ethan Geto, who called him “the first leader of the criminal justice system to recognize the status and value of the gay community,” citing an anti-gay extortion ring that Morgenthau broke up in 1967 when he was U.S. attorney. Morgenathau’s efforts that year succeeded despite a lack of cooperation from former F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Morgenthau said that the campaigns to stop same-sex marriage in this country are an effort “to turn the clock back,” recalling the days when marriage between the races was illegal. He notably refused to prosecute ministers in Manhattan who performed same-sex marriages and confirmed to Gay City News that he “absolutely” supported the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Nila Marrone, the president of the New York chapter, proudly announced the internationalization of the PFLAG movement, with chapters now in Mexico City, Spain and Buenos Aires.
Also, scholastic scholarships, named for Dick Ashworth and Bob Benov, two PFLAG pioneers, were presented to Melissa D’Andrea, Vanessa Fuentes and Nickkita Ramnine.