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Queer Nation's Aerial Assault on Ian Reisner's Fire Island Fortress

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The banner Queer Nation flew over the beaches of the Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove on June 7.
The banner Queer Nation flew over the beaches of the Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove on June 7.

In a splashy new development in the two-month-old brouhaha over two gay Manhattan hoteliers’ meeting with –– and financial contribution to –– stridently anti-gay Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz, the activist group Queer Nation launched a beachfront fly-over of a banner urging a boycott of one of the men’s Fire Island Pines commercial properties.

For 40 minutes mid-afternoon on June 7, the group funded a plane to fly back and forth between the Pines and neighboring Cherry Grove, both popular gay and lesbian weekend communities, trailing a banner reading, “Boycott Hi/ Lo Tea! Fight For Full LGBT Rights!”

The protest was aimed at Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, owners of the West 42nd Street Out Hotel, who hosted an April 20 dinner and “fireside chat” for the Republican presidential candidate at the Central Park South penthouse that the business partners and former lovers jointly own. Reisner is one of the investors who earlier this year purchased roughly 80 percent of the commercial property in the Pines for $10 million. That property includes the Blue Whale, Sip-N-Twirl, and the Pavilion, establishments that host High Tea and Low Tea on summer afternoons.

Boycott call takes aim at one of two hosts of notorious April 20 Manhattan gay dinner soirée for Ted Cruz

In a written statement, Ken Kidd, a Queer Nation member, said, “We can get married on Sunday and then evicted or fired on Monday in many states in this country. Yet two gay business owners are making money off of the LGBT community at a world-famous gay vacation spot and then giving that money to outspoken anti-LGBT politicians who would keep us from winning those rights.”

He added, “Is doing without a cocktail at Tea such a sacrifice to make in our struggle for true equality?”

When news of the April 20 gathering for Cruz first broke, Reisner and Weiderpass insisted the event was not a fundraiser, but instead a chance to discuss foreign policy, in particular their concerns about Israel’s security. However, on May 29, the New York Times reported that around the time of the event, Reisner wrote a check to the Cruz campaign for $2,700, the legal maximum under federal campaign finance rules.

Asked about that contribution by the Times, Reisner said, “In the interest of transparency, I gave Senator Cruz a $2,700 check to show my support for his work on behalf of Israel. When I realized his donation could be misconstrued as supporting his anti-gay marriage agenda, I asked for the money back. Senator Cruz’s office gave the money back, and I have no intention of giving any money to any politicians who aren’t in support of LGBT issues.”

Senator Ted Cruz with Mati Weiderpass,  in the Manhattan home he owns with Ian Reisner. | FACEBOOK.COM
Senator Ted Cruz with Mati Weiderpass, in the Manhattan home he owns with Ian Reisner. | FACEBOOK.COM

Reisner and Weiderpass, in a series of media interviews and social media posts, have alternately expressed contrition for hosting the meeting and “for hurting the gay community and so many of our friends, family, allies, customers and employees” and aggressively volleyed back that their critics are extremists intolerant of diverse viewpoints within the LGBT community.

One particularly low moment in their campaign at rehabilitation came when they told New York magazine, in response to charges that they have profited off the LGBT community, that “gays are cheap” and the hotel loses money.

The same week that Cruz dined with Reisner and Weiderpass, the Texas Republican announced two pieces of legislation — one a constitutional amendment to shield states limiting marriage to different-sex couples from legal challenge and another blocking any federal court action on the question until such an amendment is adopted.

Cruz’s views on gay marriage are not simply a quibble over the principles of federalism. Last summer, writing in the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin quoted him saying, “If ever there was an issue on which we should come to our knees to God about, it is preserving marriage of one man and one woman. And this is an issue on which we need as many praying warriors as possible to turn back the tide.”

Cruz has also voiced opposition to LGBT non-discrimination protections, both at the federal level and in Texas and its localities.

The Out Hotel has suffered cancellations from a wide array of community groups that had planned to hold events there, including Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.

COVER ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL SHIREY
COVER ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL SHIREY

In addition to the Queer Nation action this weekend, Reisner also faced pressure from a Facebook-organized boycott group that delivered 600 palm cards to every home in the Pines and plastered the island with hundreds of posters. The group’s Facebook page includes a statement from Andrew Tobias, the financial writer and novelist long involved with the Democratic National Committee –– who had defended the two men early in the controversy –– who wrote, “The best solution would be for [Reisner] to find a buyer for his share in the Pines properties ASAP.”

Reisner and Weiderpass’ problems at the Out Hotel also multiplied last month when four current and former employees filed suit in federal court alleging businesses in the complex failed to pay required overtime wages and discriminated against two of the plaintiffs on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

@LiberalActionNY says:
This article left out the fundraiser they did for the rabidly homophobic Ron Johnson.
June 7, 2015, 11:20 pm
John Carollo says:
They're serving waffles again ...
June 8, 2015, 12:57 pm
Will says:
"One particularly low moment in their campaign at rehabilitation came when they told New York magazine, in response to charges that they have profited off the LGBT community, that “gays are cheap” and the hotel loses money." More accurately, Reisner called us, his customers, "cheap" & "entitled" while pointing out how hard it is "to make a penny off of a gay person." It was Weiderpass who likened us to "extremists" for daring to question his & Reisner's right to take our money, in fact, get rich off of it &, in turn, give it to sworn enemies of the gay community. Shortly after the Cruz dinner in April at his & Reisner's apt., Weiderpass made his position on the matter crystal clear when he attended & met yet again with Senator Cruz at a midtown fundraiser despite the growing outrage nationwide.
June 8, 2015, 1:25 pm
;ludwig says:
These guys are also ripping off our community by charging extortion sales rates for new gay residents to buy homes that are as much as 30 years old and are not in that good of repair For what they are charging--you can buy a very nice home in South Carolina near Charleston or up int the Mountains near Greenville and have a lot of money left over but of course you would not live here full time as most residents do not live full time on Fire Island.
June 8, 2015, 4:15 pm
JsWines says:
Low rent people living in a penthouse?
June 9, 2015, 9:27 pm
Larry and Arnie says:
Although Reisner and Weiderpass fucked up royally in supporting Ted Cruz, who is as bad as right-wing American politicians get, an issue raised by this mess regards Jewish gays who are concerned about anti-Semitism and the security of Israel. While none of us who are Jewish and in the mainstream of gay life wants to find ourselves supportive of religious fundamentalism and extremism, whether Jewish, Christian or Islamic, and while many of us share concerns about the oppression of Palestinians by Israel, those of us who are Jewish and aware of ourselves as such are justifiably concerned about the global resurgence of malignant anti-Semitism and the outspoken commitment to Israel’s destruction among Islamic extremists, including Hamas, which was voted into power by the Palestinians. Hopefully, the Reisner-Weiderpass debacle will prove cautionary for gay Jews and others with conflicting concerns and loyalties. Even as liberal support for Israel continues to recede, not so coincidentally as anti-Semitism gains momentum, l’affaire Cruz makes it clear that gay Jews will need to tread a lot more cautiously and judiciously in the minefields of trying to make politics with strange bedfellows. One question lingers. Can we now expect comparable explosions of gay activist outrage, condemnation and boycotting of GLBT spokespersons who, in unilaterally criticizing and blaming Israel for Palestinian oppression, give a free pass to Islamic insurgencies and theocracies that are murderously homophobic and oppressive of women? Larry Mass and Arnie Kantrowitz, New York City
June 10, 2015, 2:42 pm
john clements says:
You said -"Hopefully, the Reisner-Weiderpass debacle will prove cautionary for gay Jews and others with conflicting concerns and loyalties" So LGBT folks, [jewish or not], who understand the serious need to support our ally Israel standing on the front lines against global jihadism in the Middle East, have "conflicted concerns and loyalties"? Rubbish!!! You sound like one of those clueless radical "dhimmi" Dems. Don't know what a "dhimmi" is? Go to jihadwatch.org and get educated. This anti-Reisner/Weiderpass boycott crap is pure political garbage that has nothing to do with LGBT concerns. I suspect the main folks behind this are radical leftist Democrats who just "happen to be gay", and are using legitimate LGBT issues as a smokescreen for their real motive. Which is to attack a gay jewish Republican for wanting to have a non-LGBT discussion about foreign policy and national security. Unfortunately there are far too many LGBT folks out there who are totally clueless on thse other important issues.
June 10, 2015, 6:42 pm
LittleBearNYC says:
With all due respect to Larry and Arnie (to quote Larry David) - there are some of us Jews who feel the soul of the Jewish people, a soul that the Diaspora infused with the need for social justice, is being poisoned by the taint of extreme nationalism and racism that Israel represents. A nation based around a religion (with no civil marriage for gays or straights, and only one branch of that religion- Orthodox- sanctioned officially) would be condemned by the commentators if it were an Islamic or Christian state._Israel is blamed for Palestinian repression because they ARE illegal occupiers and are routinely expropriating Palestinian lands for Brooklyn Jews to settle on (since "God gave this land to them - a "land without a people for a people without land" - except that the land did have native non-Jewish populations. Before it was removed from the UN report, Israel was listed as #3 in the bombing and killing of children (and do not argue that those children were 'terrorists')._Frankly, I'm surprised that Jewish Liberals and former Gay Liberationsts, who supported the Boycott and Divestiture campaign against South Africa would have such a blind spot against the subjugation- under religious justification- of a whole category of people. When Bishop Tutu visited the West Bank he remarked that in some cases Israeli apartheid was worse than South African apartheid -especially in the way lands were expropriated willy-nilly and communities divided by a wall._Which brings us back to Ted Cruz, the GOP and Israel. The marriage is complete and the GOP is blindly committed to Israel uber alles. so it makes perfect sense that Zionists who blindly support Israel, along with the class interests in GOP economic policies, would join forces in this unholy marriage to allow Israel to complete the theft of land and end any hope of a just solution. And it makes sense that such 1%ers would align with the republican party - after all no one is stepping on their 'gay' rights. Robert Eisdorfer_New York City
June 12, 2015, 1:28 pm
George de Stefano says:
"Unfortunately there are far too many LGBT folks out there who are totally clueless on these other important issues." You just perfectly described yourself. I won't waste my time responding to your right-wing, Republican nonsense. Anyone who quotes from "jihadwatch" isn't to be taken seriously. The gay and lesbian/LGBT movement was started by radicals and leftists -- not far-right Republicans like you, who were either cowering in their closets or helping to persecute their peers, a la Roy Cohn. "Get educated?" That's a laugh. Get educated about what a reactionary, homophobic, and utterly vile character your hero Ted Cruz is. But then you probably already know how vile he is, which is why he's your hero.
June 12, 2015, 7:16 pm
john clements says:
You describe yourself as having fit the description in my comment above: "...radical leftist Democrat who just happens to be gay". You said, -"Get educated about what a reactionary, homophobic, and utterly vile character your hero Ted Cruz is. But then you probably already know how vile he is, which is why he's your hero." Rubbish!!! Read anything in my comments above describing Cruz as "my hero"? No. Of course you didn't because you just made that up to slander me. And if you're slamming Jihadwatch.org, then you must be on the side of those Islamo/nazi jihadists who like to throw gay people off the top of buildings for being gay. Wake up!! They hosted a Republican to dinner for a discussion of non-LGBT matters. Foreign policy and national security. And for that the loud cry-babys want to boycott their business for simply having a dinner and conversation with someone? Sick!! This has nothing to do with LGBT matters. It is well known that Reisner and Weiderpass are both Republican [log cabin]. Folks in both partys [Dem, Rep.] do not always agree with each other on every issue. And sometimes intensely disagree with one another. That doesn't mean you can't sit down and have a conversation on other matters. Or find agreement on other important issues. Like the need to support our ally Israel, an alternative to the Federal income tax, such as the "Fair Tax". And there are a host of other non-LGBT important matters that we can try to work together on. I think whats really going on here is a bunch of loud cry-baby Democrats, who just happen to be gay, are trying to use legitimate LGBT matters as a smokescreen for what their real beef with Ian Reisner is: He's a Republican. And these cry baby Dems are so extremely liberal and "intolerant", they can't abide anybody being anything other than Democrat.
June 13, 2015, 6:17 pm
john clements says:
Your entire comments above are pure rubbishI!! Israel is "not" an extremist racist state. You have it backwards. It is the jihad terror loving Islamists that surround the tiny nation of Israel who are the intolerant illegal occupying invaders. 1400 years of Islamic jihad military invasions, occupations, and colonizations. On the other hand, Israel is a haven of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Take time to read this article in Out mag:'' http://www.out.com/news-opinion/2014/08/11/op-ed-...
June 13, 2015, 6:33 pm
kamaraj says:
nice post
March 22, 2016, 6:35 am

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