In January 1978, Virginia Apuzzo, Gary Deane, and Robert Mehl invited a group of lesbians and gay men to a meeting at Deane’s apartment in Boerum Hill to discuss the formation of a Gay Political Caucus in Brooklyn. The meeting was an outgrowth of Apuzzo’s and Deane’s participation the previous summer in The Study Group, which was formed to organize for passage of a city lesbian and gay civil rights and of Deane’s narrow loss—as an openly gay candidate—in a race for an at-large city council seat in November 1977. Approximately 20 people attended.
At a subsequent meeting, the group voted to constitute itself as a reform Democratic club and to apply for official recognition by the Kings County Democratic Coalition (KCDC), the umbrella organization of reform Democratic political clubs in the borough. While the club’s focus was obviously lesbian and gay interests, membership in the reform wing of the Democratic Party meant it would take positions on issues not narrowly related to the community, such as questions of war and peace, abortion, and the death penalty.
Peter Vogel was selected to oversee the formulation of a constitution. In an interview with Flatbush Life, Vogel indicated that the club was modeling itself after San Francisco’s Alice B.Toklas Democratic club. “No one in San Francisco can hope to get elected without Alice’s support,” said Vogel. The constitution was approved in April, and Vogel and Marilyn Cooper were elected co-chairs of the club.
Among the first candidates endorsed by L.I.D. was Apuzzo, who ran for an Assembly seat in the Fort Greene/ Boerum Hill district. She lost to the incumbent in the primary but remained on the Liberal Party line through the November election.
The club’s early activity focused on building support in the Brooklyn City Council delegation for a city gay and lesbian rights bill. Club leaders met with Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito in the summer of 1978, seeking his intervention with numerous council opponents from the borough. The bill would be defeated later that year.
It did not take long for L.I.D. to emerge as a force in Democratic politics, with public figures such as Mario Cuomo, Carol Bellamy, Elizabeth Holtzman, and John Lindsay regularly speaking and exchanging ideas with members of the club. At the same time, members were organizing at the grass-roots level to garner appointments to local community boards and police councils. Success came in spring 1979, when Lew Smith was appointed to Community Board 6. L.I.D. also sponsored a community meeting that fall with representatives of the 60th, 76th, 78th, and 84th police precincts.
During the 1980 presidential election, L.I.D. sent three members, Peter Vogel, Ginny Apuzzo, and H. Douglas Guevara, to the Democratic National Convention as delegates.
L.I.D. hit the national spotlight in 1981, when the July 23 issue of The Advocate featured a cover story on the Brooklyn gay community. Many L.I.D. members were quoted and/or pictured in the story, and several paragraphs were devoted to the club itself. That fall, L.I.D. initiated what would become one of its longest-running programs: Authors’ Night. Vito Russo, Audre Lorde, and Wallace Hamilton inaugurated the series. In the years since, Edmund White, Randy Shilts, John D’Emilio, Nancy Garden, Gabriel Rotello, Donna Minkowitz, and Jesse Green, among others, have participated in similar events.
In 1982, L.I.D. joined other Brooklyn reform Democratic clubs to select a single candidate to oppose Thomas Cuite, the City Council majority leader from Windsor Terrace/Park Slope, whose opposition to a city gay rights bill was keeping it from a floor vote in the city council. The consensus candidate, Stephen DiBrienza, lost a close primary race.
June of 1982 saw the club’s largest endorsement meeting to date. That night, L.I.D. threw its support to Mario Cuomo for governor at a time when he was thought to have little chance of winning. Club members figured prominently in the statewide Lesbians and Gays for Cuomo campaign, with Apuzzo and L.I.D. board member David Chancey holding leadership positions. That same year, Apuzzo, Vogel, and Denise Alexander were among twelve people elected to the board of the newly constituted National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs.
Continuing to expand LID’s influence in party politics, Vogel was elected President of the 52nd Assembly District County Committee in November 1982. While largely symbolic, it was still an important first. Just two years later, five members of L.I.D. attended the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, another sign that the club was at the forefront of building lesbian and gay representation in the Democratic Party nationally.
1985 saw a tremendous victory for L.I.D. and its reform-minded allies when Tom Cuite decided not to seek re-election. Early in the process to choose his successor, L.I.D. broke ranks with other Democratic clubs to endorse its old friend Steve DiBrienza. The club also targeted two other races where African American reformers challenged old-line incumbents. DiBrienza was elected with L.I.D.’s enthusiastic backing. That same year, the New York State Assembly for the first time approved legislation barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Brooklyn delegation supported the measure by a vote of 15–4.
The AIDS epidemic first captured the club’s attention in the early 1980’s. In 1982, L.I.D. sponsored the first large AIDS forum in Brooklyn. In the years following, the club became increasingly involved in the struggle to increase funding for AIDS treatment and research, a struggle and cause which continues. The tragedy really hit home in 1986 when Peter Vogel, a four-term president who had guided the club through its formative years, died of AIDS. Many others in the L.I.D. family—among them Fred B. Kasner, Joe Borradaile, Ware Smith, Marc Rosenberg, Ralph Herman, David Cantrell, Bob Hays, and Larry Shaw—have died since.
In a sad irony, Vogel died barely a month before the passage of New York City’s Lesbian/Gay Civil Rights Bill. By that time, the new Brooklyn delegation on the City Council voted 7–4 in favor of the bill. Just a year earlier, before the municipal elections, the old delegation had voted 7–4 against the bill.
In 1987, L.I.D. held its first brunch for state legislators. That same year, Paul Horowitz organized a large club contingent for the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.
By 1988, the club, under the leadership of President Scott Klein, was once again playing an active role in presidential politics, with scores of L.I.D. members taking to the streets to campaign for Michael Dukakis. That same year, club membership jumped from 120 to over 250. Working with the New York State Lesbian and Gay Lobby, L.I.D. successfully lobbied for passage of a bias-related-violence bill in the state Assembly. The club also worked to elect Ada Smith to the State Senate in 1988. She became the second African American woman in the Brooklyn delegation, along with Velmanette Montgomery.
In 1989, the club endorsed David Dinkins and played a major role in the election of New York’s first African American mayor. That same year we helped to elect the city’s first woman comptroller, Elizabeth Holtzman.
Pressuring Borough President Howard Golden to respond to the needs of the lesbian and gay community became a high priority in the early 1990s. Activists employed numerous tactics, including disrupting the County Democratic Dinner at which Golden was being honored, until the borough president finally began sponsoring an annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Month celebration and appointed a full-time liaison to the lesbian and gay community. That same year, the club helped to create a coalition to oust Irene Impellizzeri, the openly homophobic Brooklyn member of the Board of Education, whom Golden had appointed.
In 1990 and 1991, L.I.D. gathered information, offered testimony, and presented documentation in support of the creation of a lesbian or gay “winnable” city council district in Brooklyn to the Redistricting Commission charged with formulating new City Council district lines. Anti-lesbian and gay violence was a major focus of club activities in the early 1990s as well, following a highly publicized attack on two lesbians in Park Slope. L.I.D. was involved in the organizing of several protest marches following the incident; lobbied to have the incident characterized as a bias crime; and successfully worked for the placement of an openly lesbian or gay police officer in the 78th precinct centered in Park Slope.
The 1992 national elections heralded a new atmosphere of inclusion for the gay and lesbian community, as we contributed to the victory of President Bill Clinton and the start of a Democratic administration after twelve long Republican years.
In late 1992 and early 1993, L.I.D. organized in support of the “Children of the Rainbow” curriculum at hearings in Brooklyn School Districts 13 (Fort Greene), 15 (Park Slope/Sunset Park) and 22 (Sheepshead Bay, Mill Basin). In May 1993, L.I.D. provided significant support to Jill Harris in her successful District 15 School Board campaign, becoming the borough’s first openly lesbian or gay elected official. The club also helped to elect a slate of other progressive candidates that year. Harris was the number-one vote getter in District 15 and fast became the board president.
Also in 1993, the club saw a victory for domestic partnership in the case of Lesbian and Gay Teachers against New York City. While David Dinkins was sadly defeated for re-election, his mayoralty promulgated the executive orders that set up a citywide domestic partner registry and the extension of benefits to the domestic partners of city employees.
1994 brought the inauguration of Rudolph Giuliani, the first Republican mayor in over 25 years. Irene Impellezzeri was finally removed as Brooklyn’s representative on the Board of Education, Borough President Golden bowing to years of pressure from the lesbian and gay community. But unfortunately, Impellezzeri was reappointed by Giuliani. That same year L.I.D. helped Felix Ortiz win election to the Assembly in the 51st district and openly lesbian Karen Burstein garner the Democratic nomination for State Attorney General. To the club’s dismay, Burstein lost the general election in a squeaker at the same time as Governor Cuomo was replaced by the Republican administration of George Pataki.
In 1995 and 1996 L.I.D. co-hosted with State Senator Marty Markowitz Brooklyn’s first National Coming Out Day concerts. L.I.D. was also challenged with twin Republican administrations in Albany and New York City for the first time since its formation. L.I.D. began the year by co-sponsoring two protests aimed at State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Attorney General Dennis Vacco. Bruno began his administration by abolishing domestic partnership benefits for Senate employees while Vacco rescinded his office’s policy of nondiscrimination toward lesbians and gay men. Happily, Governor Pataki signed an Executive Order continuing Cuomo’s policy of nondiscrimination toward state employees.
In the State Senate, L.I.D. was crucial in getting the Brooklyn delegation to oppose a rescission of the ban on military recruitment on SUNY campuses. Unfortunately, the law passed anyway. The club won a tremendous victory when homophobic Rev. Ruben Diaz was ousted from the City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. As the 1996 Presidential election approached, L.I.D. Vice Presidents Rodrick Dial and Beth Robinson attended the Democratic National Committee Conference in Washington. Later that year, Dial helped to organize a national conference of lesbian and gay Democrats in Philadelphia.
Jill Harris once again swept the 1996 School Board election in District 15, along with an entire slate called the Good Schools Coalition. The club also worked to elect a progressive majority to the District 13 School Board that year. During the Presidential election, the club sent two members, Lola Simmons and Alan Fleishman, to the Democratic National Convention as delegates. On the local front, L.I.D. helped to elect Joan Millman to the State Assembly in a special election called after the tragic death of our longtime friend Eileen Dugan. Another member of the club family passed away in 1996: devoted board member Clyde Moss, in whose name and memory we now give a service award.
In the spring of 1996, L.I.D. become the first lesbian and gay Democratic club on the east coast to create a Web site, which it maintains to this day (www.LIDBrooklyn. org). In another historic first, L.I.D. board member Kay Mackey was selected as a presidential elector and cast her vote for Bill Clinton when the Electoral College met in Albany in December.
1997 became the year Brooklyn’s second openly gay/lesbian elected official triumphed. Former L.I.D. board member Debra Silber became Kings County’s first openly lesbian civil court judge with the unprecedented support of the Kings County Democratic organization. Despite County’s support and the fact that Debra entered the Democratic primary without an opponent, the club spent a large part of the summer petitioning for her and mayoral candidate Ruth Messinger. L.I.D. was also very involved in the primary victory of Joanne Seminara for a City Council seat in Bay Ridge. Sadly both lost, and Seminara was the subject of an anonymous last minute gay-baiting smear that could only have been orchestrated by her opponent, Marty Golden. It was also the year that L.I.D. joined in Brooklyn Pride’s first-ever gay and lesbian march and festival in Park Slope.
1998 began with a mix of good news and bad. Along with Silber’s swearing-in and a special election victory for longtime L.I.D. friend Adele Cohen in the 46th Assembly District, Jill Harris, after five years of outstanding service, resigned her school board seat. L.I.D. was initially disappointed that an openly lesbian or gay applicant was not appointed to fill the vacancy, but by year’s end had worked to accomplish yet another milestone. When a second vacancy occurred on the board, Kevin Allard-Mendelson, a gay father, was appointed to the slot.
Ginny Apuzzo returned to Brooklyn to keynote our 20th anniversary celebration in May, just months after her appointment as Assistant to President Clinton for Management and Administration, the highest LGBT appointment at the federal level in history. L.I.D. was also heavily involved in the creation of a new national federation of LGBT Democratic clubs, designed to counter the presence of the Log Cabin Republicans; this coalition was later named the National Stonewall Democratic Federation. L.I.D. would become a charter member, and Co-President Lola Simmons would serve as an early board member.
And while it was a busy election year, L.I.D. focused much of its political firepower on the open congressional seat vacated by Chuck Schumer, being sought by Brooklyn LGBT-Enemy #1 Noach Dear. Just months before the primary, Dear was the only Brooklyn Democrat to oppose a sweeping domestic partnership law that passed the City Council. As payback for years of such homophobic votes and behavior, L.I.D. raised funds aggressively, worked closely with other progressive organizations, and focused media attention on Dear’s deplorable record. L.I.D. hammered home the message that Dear did not belong in Congress. The voters overwhelmingly agreed, electing Anthony Wiener.
The spring 1999 School Board elections yielded abundant good news. All twelve candidates backed by L.I.D. were victorious in their bids for seats on local school boards. Most notable were two victories in the Park Slope/Windsor Terrace/Sunset Park/Red Hook/Boerum Hill–centered 15th District: Allard-Mendelson and Ana Bermudez. Both ran as openly LGBT candidates.
L.I.D. expended considerable effort to assist Lavender and Green win a sanctioned spot in that year’s Park Slope St. Patrick’s Day march. When L.I.D. entered the fray and asked elected officials to pledge to boycott the parade if lesbians and gays were not allowed to fully participate, the number who made that pledge was heartening, but the number who participated without marching was equally discouraging. Several L.I.D. members were arrested attempting to march in the parade with Lavender and Green.
An early March primary meant the 2000 presidential campaign kicked off early for L.I.D. with its endorsement of Senator Bill Bradley. Four LGBT delegate candidates were slated in Brooklyn, and 2 were elected: Alan Fleishman and Ron Johnson, both pledged to Bradley.
Following the prior year’s debacle surrounding the Brooklyn St. Pat’s parade, L.I.D. organized a major initiative designed to marginalize its bigoted organizers. The results were in stark contrast to the previous year: The only elected official to march was a Republican city council member. This was far from a victory, however, as despite some false hopes in 2003, LGBT marchers are still prohibited from participating in the event.
Noach Dear mounted another congressional race in 2000, this time against incumbent Anthony Weiner. Up to his old tricks, Dear secretly recorded Weiner’s presentation at L.I.D.’s endorsement meeting and used it to fan anti-LGBT sentiment among ultra-conservative Jewish groups.
The voters again repudiated Dear at the polls in the wake of two historic events: the enactment of a statewide Hate Crimes Bill and the introduction by City Councilmember Steve DiBrienza of a bill outlawing discrimination against transgender individuals. At the urging of L.I.D., five other borough council members were among the legislation’s original sponsors. Within 18 months, the measure was law.
A longtime Brooklyn opponent of the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) made a dramatic switch to support the legislation in 2000. In an emotional floor speech, Greenpoint Assemblymember Joe Lentol repudiated his prior votes. Bensonhurst’s Peter Abate would join the “switch to SONDA” the following year, and by the time the legislation was passed into law in 2002, only one Brooklyn Assemblymember opposed the measure: Dov Hikind.
After a Supreme Court ruling upholding the Boy Scouts’ right to exclude gay members and leaders, L.I.D. urged local school boards to rebuke the BSA. Late in the year, District #15 took the lead and passed a resolution banning the Boy Scouts from using district facilities and forbidding school sponsorship of Boy Scout activities. District #13 was set to follow suit until such action was rendered moot by Chancellor Harold Levy’s edict barring sponsorship of Boy Scout activities in the entire New York City school system.
The prospect of hotly contested races for mayor and other city offices boosted L.I.D. membership to record levels as 2001 dawned. L.I.D. made an early and enthusiastic endorsement of Steve DiBrienza for Public Advocate. Sparked by highly competitive races and a large number of candidates seeking L.I.D. backing, the club would hold a record 6 endorsement meetings throughout the year. Many of our members played leadership roles in high-profile campaigns, and L.I.D. board member Ken Diamondstone made a serious but unsuccessful run for City Council in the 33rd District.
The club’s continuing electoral profile and clout was reinforced by statistics from the 2000 Census, which indicated that zip code 11215 was the eighth-gayest zip code in the country, and showing that one in four LGBT couples resided in Brooklyn. The data illustrated what many had known for some time: Brooklyn was increasingly becoming the place lesbians and gay men wanted to live within our city. Our community had come a long way since that 1981 Advocate cover story.
With the Bush “victory” in 2000 and the stunning Bloomberg win in 2001, it would have been easy for L.I.D. and the community to be discouraged as another political year dawned. But 2002 would provide L.I.D. with yet another first: the election of Alan Fleishman as male District Leader in the 52nd Assembly District. More startling than his election was the fact that once he announced his intention to run, the field of potential opponents cleared and Fleishman gained his position unopposed.
And after decades of struggle, the year closed with another historic moment we had long hoped for: the enactment of statewide LGBT nondiscrimination legislation (SONDA). For L.I.D., the victory was bittersweet as two Democratic Senators from Brooklyn—Seymour Lachman and Vincent Gentile—voted against the bill. Gentile’s action was particularly infuriating, as he had twice run for the State Senate with L.I.D. endorsement based on his stated support for SONDA.
In 2003, L.I.D. held its gala 25th Anniversary Lunch during which we honored Pride At Work, Irene Lo Re, OutPOCPAC, former L.I.D. President Bethany Joseph, and openly gay State Senator Tom Duane. Senator Duane had the distinct honor of being L.I.D.’s first such honoree from outside Brooklyn.
Locally, openly lesbian City Council Member Chris Quinn ably steered the city’s Equal Benefits Bill (EBB), which would require certain city contractors to provide health and other benefits to the lesbian or gay partners of their employees, through the City Council’s committee and hearings process. By year’s end, the EBB had garnered a veto-proof majority of sponsors and supporters in anticipation of a veto from Mayor Bloomberg . Although the bill ultimately became law, its future is uncertain following a court challenge.
In several states across the country, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, equal marriage rights for lesbians and gays became the rallying cry both for our community and for those on the political right, who vehemently oppose extending any civil or legal rights, to say nothing of marriage, to lesbians and gays. In a remarkably rapid series of events, equal marriage rights dominated the news in late 2003. Despicably, finding no place for tolerance, not to mention “compassion,” for the first time in our nation’s history a constitutional amendment to limit, rather than expand, rights and freedoms was put before the Congress when President George W. Bush and right-wing conservatives proposed an amendment to bar civil marriage for lesbians and gays.
The Presidential election and Democratic primary cycle quickly got underway in 2003 with former Vermont Governor Howard Dean taking an early lead. In the spring of 2004 L.I.D. was first among the city’s LGBT political clubs to endorse a rival, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who became the party’s nominee in July. Despite strong efforts in the LGBT community to elect the Kerry/Edwards ticket in November, President Bush was reelected in a tough contest. Predictions that this would be bad news for our community quickly came true, as the Bush Administration eliminated virtually all funding for LGBT initiatives, including critical health and social services programs.
Early 2005 saw an important legal victory as Civil Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohen ruled that New York City had no basis for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Sadly, Mayor Bloomberg chose to challenge this ground-breaking decision, which was reversed by the appellate court and the New York Court of Appeals.
L.I.D., outraged by Mayor Bloomberg’s obstruction of the issuance of marriage licenses, vigorously supported the Democratic mayoral challengers. L.I.D. became the first and only LGBT club to endorse Anthony Weiner for mayor. Upon Congressman Weiner’s brave decision to withdraw from the race for the nomination of the Democratic Party and consequently avoid a painful runoff, L.I.D. threw its support behind the candidacy of Fernando Ferrer.
Although Mayor Bloomberg’s Democratic challenger did not prevail, L.I.D. was proud of its role in supporting judicial reform in the contentious race for Brooklyn Surrogate Judge. L.I.D.’s endorsed candidate in that race, Judge Margarita Lopez Torres, emerged victorious after surviving a grueling recount battle. L.I.D. stood with Judge Torres every step of the way. In another hard-fought judicial battle, L.I.D. candidate and board member Norma Jennings fell short in her countywide race for Civil Court Judge.
Also in 2005, L.I.D. spearheaded a successful lobbying effort to reinstate funding for the Rainbow Heights Club, the only state-funded peer-based mental health organization in New York State specifically for the LGBT community, which was in danger of closing following a loss of funding.
An exciting development happened in early 2006 when Councilmember Christine Quinn, longtime LGBT activist and former GLID president, became the first openly-LGBT City Council Speaker.
However, the year 2006 will be best remembered for the dramatic change in control of the U.S. House and Senate following the November elections. LGBT voters were instrumental in many of these victories, and we were pleased to see some of our longtime foes leave the Congress.
As 2007 dawned, Elliot Spitzer took the oath of office as governor of New York after twelve years of Republican rule. LID has continued its electoral and community advocacy. We endorsed our own Debra Silber and held a fundraiser for her re-election as a Civil Court judge. We honored City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at our annual Brooklyn Pride event in June.
In a move outside the direct interests of the LGBT community, LID adopted a resolution opposing the Atlantic Yards Project of the Forest City Ratner Development Company. We also continued our history of supporting local organizations that serve the LGBT community, forging important connections between elected leadership and organizations like the Center for Anti-Violence Education and Rainbow Heights Club.
2008 began with new leadership at the top of the club. On January 14, the members elected Dan Willson and Terrance Knox as new Co-Presidents. At the same meeting the club overwhelmingly endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president.
In March, Elliot Spitzer resigned amid scandal and Lt. Governor David Paterson assumed the governorship. LID welcomed the new governor, saying in a statement, “We have a friend in David Paterson.”
When our endorsed presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, withdrew in favor of Barack Obama, the club enthusiastically backed the senator from Illinois. Many of us went far afield to work for his election in the months leading up to November 4—Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida all saw L.I.D.ers pounding pavements and punching phone dials. Others worked from home, and the overwhelming victory of Barack Obama is in no small measure attributable to the work many of us did.
Still others worked tirelessly to turn the New York State Senate Democratic; however, even with a new majority there, same-sex marriage was narrowly defeated in its first floor vote in the State Senate the following year. Despite the intense lobbying efforts of L.I.D.’s members and allies, the New York State Senate voted against the marriage equality bill, thus denying LGBT New Yorkers the basic human right to marry the person they love. Sadly, if it hadn’t been for the assist Republicans received from Democratic Senators Addabbo, Aubertine, Diaz, Huntley, Carl Kruger, Monserrate, Onorato and Stachowski, same-sex marriage would be the law of the state in New York today. L.I.D. was extremely grateful for the courageous leaders in Brooklyn and beyond who stood up in support of the bill, and extended special thanks to Brooklyn Senators Adams, Dilan, Montgomery, Parker, Sampson, Savino, Smith, and Squadron for standing up for our civil rights.
As it happened, both Co-Presidents Dan Willson and Terrance Knox got new job assignments on the eve of our annual club election in January, which in this troubled economy they could not possibly turn down. We elected new talent in the form of Co-Presidents Mary Cooley and Jeremy Wilson, along with some new board members to join a number of veteran members. We entered the 2009 city election season with renewed energy and a resolve to keep city officials as aware of LGBT concerns as we have state and federal electeds.
2009 was another banner year for L.I.D. Soon after Barack Obama was sworn in as our first African American president, applauded the Parks Department’s decision to recognize the homosexual victims of the Nazis at the Holocaust Memorial in Sheepshead Bay. In municipal races we supported our own Bob Zuckerman, among others, for City Council. We also endorsed Rachel Adams and Reginald Boddie for Civil Court. In the citywide race for Public Advocate, we proudly endorsed and became outspoken supporters of our long-time friend Bill De Blasio, who went on to win the race. L.I.D. also became an early endorser of John Liu for Comptroller. L.I.D.’s endorsement and enthusiastic support in the primary helped propel Liu to victory in November, when he became the first Asian American to win a citywide elected office in NYC. While Bill Thompson’s bid to unseat Mayor Michael Bloomberg fell short, L.I.D.’s endorsement and the hard work of our members helped to make the margin of defeat less than 5% after a campaign in which Thompson was outspent by nearly 10 to 1.
In 2010 and 2011, we saw both extraordinary progress as well as heartbreaking reverses on LGBT issues. In March 2010, a young gay man was viciously attacked in Cobble Hill. Then a series of suicides by LGBT teenagers around the nation shone a light on the tragic fact that LGBT youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids are. And, throughout the year there were a number of attacks on LGBT people in NYC, including one in Williamsburg where a gang of teens seriously injured a young gay man.
These tragic incidents, however, could not detract from the many advances that were made on behalf of LGBT civil rights, thanks in large part to the efforts of L.I.D. and its many LGBT and progressive partners. In June 2010, New York lawmakers passed the Dignity for All Children Act, which aims to make classrooms free of bullying. At the end of 2010, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed as a result of the efforts of many L.I.D.-endorsed Democratic leaders. Then, President Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court cases.
Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn, L.I.D. continued to serve the community, to speak out for equality and justice, and to lay the groundwork for even more legislative victories for LGBT people. When members of our community were attacked, L.I.D. helped to organize rallies and brought leaders of our community together to devise ways to make our streets safer. For homeless LGBT youth, we co-sponsored a clothing drive and spoke out against proposed cuts to homeless youth services. And for the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, we helped to raise over $20,000.
In addition to our focus on issues of concern to the LGBT community, L.I.D. fought hard for reform and for progressive values. Working with other progressive leaders and organizations, L.I.D. co-sponsored public events to raise awareness about redistricting, the budget, and other issues that affect Brooklyn residents. In the Fall of 2010, New Kings Democrats honored L.I.D.’s co-president Tom Burrows with the Champions of Reform Award for all his hard work on behalf of progressive causes. Over 90% of L.I.D.’s endorsed candidates in 2010 went on to win in November’s general election, ensuring that LGBT and progressive issues will continue to be represented at all levels of government. Among those we helped elect were two new progressive district leaders, Chris Owens and Lincoln Restler, who vowed to bring transparency and reform to Brooklyn’s Democratic party.
The 2010 victories for Tea Party candidates in Congress and in state houses across the nation brought about one of the fiercest assaults on progressive values in a generation. Environmental regulations were being gutted, collective bargaining rights were being stripped, and funding for education, health care, infrastructure, and homeless services were being cut. The social contract we and generations before us fought so hard to establish and protect was being dismantled in the guise of fiscal responsibility, while millionaires and billionaires continued to get more and more tax cuts.
The year spanning 2011 and 2012 was an especially exciting time in the history of our club and in the struggle for LGBT equality.
In the spring of 2011, LID organized a rally for marriage equality and helped to mobilize thousands of Brooklyn supporters to contact state senators. The campaign ultimately led to the historic vote on June 24, 2011, that granted equal marriage rights to LGBT New Yorkers. That same year, we witnessed the full repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", brought about in part by the efforts of lawmakers whom LID helped elect.
In 2012, LID's own Erin Drinkwater became the Brooklyn Community Pride Center's new Executive Director. LID became a primary organizer and supporter of the Campaign for Youth Shelter, which drew national attention to the plight of the nearly 4,000 homeless youth in NYC, 40% of whom identify as LGBT. We also became an early supporter of the Queer History Alliance's campaign to build an AIDS Memorial Park in the West Village, the epicenter of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s. And three LID co-presidents, Matthew McMorrow, Carlos Menchaca, and Erin Drinkwater attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.
In 2012, in addition to helping to elect and re-elect progressive and pro-equality candidates here at home, LID members traveled to Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states, to help re-elect President Obama, whose historic embrace of marriage equality and the successful repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’, among a host of other pro-LGBT equality actions, galvanized the LGBT community across the country. We also participated in the successful campaigns to win marriage equality in Maryland, Washington, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota. LID also became a founding member of the Brooklyn Reform Coalition, which helped secure much-needed reforms within the Kings County Democratic Party, even as we pressed for further reforms and an end to political corruption. Furthermore, we joined the New Yorkers Against Fracking coalition, participated in the Silent March Against Stop & Frisk, and endorsed the 13 Bold Progressive Ideas for NYC developed by our progressive allies on the City Council.
In 2013, we celebrate Lambda’s 35th year against a backdrop of a global wave of progress with respect to LGBT rights and equality. From New Zealand to Rhode Island, from Uruguay to Minnesota, the world is embracing marriage equality, even as we wait with anticipation for the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Early in the year, Tammy Baldwin became the first openly LGBT member of the United States Senate, and Sean Patrick Maloney became New York’s first openly gay Congressperson. NBA star Jason Collins became the first active male professional athlete in a major North American team sport to publicly come out as gay. The world is rapidly changing around us.
It is remarkable how far we have come, the role LID has played, and the work that remains to be done. There was a time in Brooklyn when very few, if any, elected officials would have been brave enough to support LGBT civil rights. Now, the lead sponsor for GENDA is a Brooklyn state senator. The strongest champion for LGBT homeless youth is a city council member from Brooklyn. Several openly gay and lesbian Brooklyn judges have been elected, including, most recently, LID’s own Richard Montelione. All but one state senator in Brooklyn voted for marriage equality in 2011. And, just last week, a marker commemorating the homosexual victims of the Nazis was dedicated in the Sheepshead Bay Holocaust Memorial Park. These developments did not happen by accident; they are in large part the result of careful and determined activism and advocacy by Lambda Independent Democrats and our friends and supporters.
As we look ahead, much remains to be done. LGBT kids are still being bullied in our schools, sometimes by their own teachers. New HIV infection rates among gay and bisexual men, especially men of color, are still too high, while police and prosecutors discourage condom possession by using it as evidence of prostitution. Transgender individuals can still be discriminated against in many parts of our state. Too many LGBT youth are homeless due to family rejection and an inadequate amount of youth shelter beds and housing support. And American missionaries continue to use propaganda to promote laws that would make being gay punishable by death in countries across the world, such as in Uganda.
Lambda Independent Democrats is proud to be working with a broad coalition of progressive and pro-equality leaders and organizations to address the many issues and shared concerns that our communities face. LID remains committed to the proposition that government’s primary responsibility in our civil society is to value and protect the rights, dignity, safety, health, and well-being of all. And we are delighted to have an array of friends and partners helping us to press that agenda forward.