Gay lawmakers hail national LGBT victories

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rebecca Henely

Queens’ two openly gay city councilmen said they were buoyed by the general election last week when three states voted in favor of same-sex marriage and many LGBT politicians won higher office across the country.

“It was a fantastic night for the LGBT movement, one that I found personally motivating and reinvigorating,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).

Both Dromm and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said they were happy three states — Maine, Maryland and Washington — passed voter referendums approving marriage equality and that several gay and lesbian candidates won seats in Congress, including current U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who will become the first openly gay senator.

Baldwin beat out former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who tried to paint her as an ideologue with a weak defense record, for the seat of outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.). Baldwin claimed Thompson used his health care company to secure a contract to treat 9/11 responders but never delivered the care.

Van Bramer and Dromm said the elections were an indicator that national public opinion on LGBT rights is changing.

“I think some of these things I thought would happen I never thought they would happen this quickly,” Van Bramer said. “I think what has been really dramatic is the pace at which equality is kind of marching at this point for the LGBT community and I think that’s breathtaking.”

Dromm said he did not believe civil rights such as marriage should be put to a popular vote, but he said the decisions in the three states proved that voters are willing to vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

“Our opponents used to argue that no state would pass it if it was put up to vote for the people and our opponents can no longer use that line,” he said.

New York made same-sex marriage legal through the state Legislature last year.

Van Bramer praised Baldwin as “an amazing woman, incredibly smart person and a great legislator,” but Dromm said it was also significant that New York will be sending its first openly gay man to the House of Representatives in Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, who defeated U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-Bedford) in a race marked by sharp tongues and accusations of extremism on both sides.

“I could never imagine there would be an openly gay congressman in Poughkeepsie,” Dromm said.

Van Bramer also said the re-election of President Barack Obama was crucial to the cause of LGBT rights after Obama said he supported same-sex marriage.

“It was incredibly, incredibly important that we re-elect him,” he said. “I think it is monumental that a president that came out in favor of marriage equality was re-elected.”

He emphasized, though, that same-sex marriage is not yet the law of the land and he hoped marriage equality would soon be a reality everywhere.

“We can’t have inequality in certain places and equality in others,” he said. “The gay and lesbian family in the Deep South is just as worth of protection as the gay and lesbian family in New York.”

Both believed, however, that the recent developments represented a major shift across America.

“Times are changing and these are all signals of what’s happening in our movement in the future,” Dromm said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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