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Big LGBTQ Wins Right Here at Home

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Big congratulations to the LGBTQ community and everyone else victimized by the Republican Party for helping Democrat Andrew Gounardes defeat right-winger Martin Golden — the last GOP representative in Brooklyn.

The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club did a 3,000-piece mailing for Gounardes and knocked on hundreds of doors in the homestretch of a close race. Apparently our mailing hit close to home, eliciting this response from Colleen Golden, wife of the defeated senator: “I have many people in my family who are gay. So don’t tell me that I don’t care. You know nothing about me and I am very proud of them.”

Sorry Colleen, but it’s not about you, it’s all about your homophobic husband. Based on his horrible record on gay rights as a senator, your gay relatives shouldn’t be very proud of him and neither should you.

Let’s return for a second look at the Borough of Queens, which has come a long way since the long hard fight to finally enact a gay rights bill in 1986. Back in the 1970s, then-Councilmember Archie Spigner said on the Council floor that he didn’t want gay teachers teaching schoolchildren. We shouted back that we already were. His public response was, “That’s why they can’t read.”

It gave me great pleasure to see him waiting in line in 2010 for the induction of out gay Queens Councilmember Danny Dromm, who now chairs the Council Finance Committee. In his current job, meanwhile, Spigner has to lobby a gay Council speaker, which is poetic justice. Now that’s coming a long way.

The Queens county leader, Joe Crowley, has long been in lockstep behind the LGBTQ community and its aspirations. This is also a switch from the past, when former county leader Tom Manton was a “no” on gay rights while in the City Council. When we needed Queens votes to pass marriage in the Senate, legislators from the borough stepped forward thanks to prodding from Crowley, who showed true leadership. Queens can also boast of a strong community ally in Congressmember Grace Meng, who also serves as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Van Bramer is an out gay councilmember who forgets that the gay rights movement was founded to achieve civil rights and sexual liberation. Pandering to a rabidly anti-sex crowd, Van Bramer spends an inordinate amount of time fighting to close adult entertainment nightspots in his district. As a longtime gay rights advocate, I find it embarrassing that in 2018 we are still fighting against 1950s-era prudes. When the feds staged a high-profile raid on the offices of rentboy.com in 2015, Van Bramer, alone among the six out LGBTQ members of the City Council, declined sign on to a letter of protest to the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. A gay elected official may get conservative votes by embracing the anti-sex crowd, but that involves trading away our community’s hard-won freedoms for personal gain.

In contrast, Councilmember Karen Koslowitz is the most well-liked and perhaps most powerful councilmember in the borough. She served in the Council in the 1990s and then stepped down due to term limits, returning in 2009. She is a powerhouse, not afraid to kneel to protest racial injustice and a friend to us all.

We did lose a great friend last year when Elizabeth Crowley was defeated in her conservative district by a demagogue who campaigned against the homeless. I hope that Crowley puts herself in the running when the Queens borough presidency opens up in 2021.

Consultant Andrew Kirtzman, a nominal Democrat, recently penned a piece entitled “Can Michael Bloomberg Save the Planet?” Kirtzman, an out gay man, perhaps forgets that Bloomberg went to court in 2005 to overturn a Manhattan judge’s order legalizing same-sex marriage. This year Bloomberg endorsed and gave financial support to anti-gay and anti-choice Republican Congressmembers Dan Donovan and Peter King. I’m not a believer in a big tent. If you are going to act like a Republican, then register as one.

Though New York does not outlaw conversion therapy being practiced on minors, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State, and the District of Columbia do. The failure to move such legislation in Albany was the fault of Republicans — aided and abetted by the Independent Democratic Conference, most of whose members were defeated in the September primary — controlling the State Senate. Now with the Democrats having swept state government, this needs to change within weeks of the new Legislature being seated. I hope out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman files it on January 1, along with the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and legislation to grant clemency to elderly inmates.

I suspect that Hoylman will play a leadership role in the new Senate He is well respected in his party conference and effective at what he does. I wish Hoylman were more supportive of progressive Democrats over establishment candidates, but he is solid, smart, and always gives you his attention.

Speaking of the State Senate, I think Simcha Felder, the hold-out Democrat who singlehandedly gave the Republicans a majority, should be isolated by his colleagues. The new majority should find a windowless office preferably lacking heat as payback for all the suffering he has caused the people of New York State. He shouldn’t be welcome in our party. We won’t need his vote, and he votes wrong on most of the issues we care about anyway.

On Saturday, December 8, there will be a candlelight rally and vigil in front of the governor’s home in Mt. Kisco. Buses will leave from Chelsea. It’s being organized by Candles for Clemency (facebook.com/candlesforclemency) and RAPP, Release Aging People from Prison, (rappcampaign.com). We will be demanding the release of elderly people incarcerated for crimes committed decades ago who pose no risk to society and have shown remorse for their actions.

The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, on November 26, is honoring Eve Ensler, who brought us “The Vagina Monologues,” out gay Bronx City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, Congressmember Jerry Nadler, and Broadway’s Danny Burstein. For more details on the event, at Butter restaurant in Midtown, or to RSVP, email aroskoff@gmail.com.

Updated 10:15 am, November 21, 2018
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