In a spirited awards ceremony that drew a crowd of well more than 100 to the bar where the modern LGBT civil rights struggle is generally acknowledged to have begun, the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York held its fourth annual Women’s Awards, honoring five leaders and organizations serving or allied with the community.
The January 21 event at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in the West Village paid tribute to Cathy Marino-Thomas, the board president of Marriage Equality New York (MENY), the grassroots group that was out front on the issue in the state before anyone else; Joanne Smith, executive director of Girls for Gender Equity, which provides a safe space for academic and career achievement to more than 600 school-aged girls and boys in the city; Janet Weinberg, the new chief operating officer at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC); the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the San Francisco legal advocacy organization that has led the marriage litigation efforts in California; and *Snapshot*, a weekly mixed queer party in New York launched six years ago.
The evening was hosted by Yetta Kurland, founder of the Women’s Awards and a civil rights attorney who became a well-known figure in the community during her aggressive challenge to out lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in last year’s Democratic primary.
Marino-Thomas sounded an upbeat assessment on the push for marriage equality, in spite of last month’s defeat in the State Senate, saying, “We’re doing alright. We just need to keep working.” She urged the audience to participate in MENY’s upcoming lobby day in Albany, and said the group has established a political action committee to participate in the state legislative races in the fall, when advocates are expected to challenge some in the State Senate who voted against the marriage bill.
Weinberg, who served as a senior managing director at GMHC and, earlier, as development director at the LGBT Community Center before assuming her current post, focused her remarks on challenging “women to step up to leadership.”
Smith, who identified herself as an LGBT ally, is originally from Haiti and talked about the need for all communities to work in coalition on the relief effort. She emphasized that during times of crisis, violence and sexual assault against women and girls often increase dramatically. Stonewall collected money for the Haitian relief effort at the event.
Smith was introduced by author, playwright, performance artist, and gender theorist Kate Bornstein, who emphasized the dangers of thinking in binary terms, not only on the issue of gender, but in a broader political sense as well. She credited Stonewall for its inclusive efforts to move beyond such a limited perspective.
Among numerous elected officials on hand were the two new citywide leaders, Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.