By Sadef Ali Kully
The morning after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were a constitutional right, City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) set up a small celebration with rainbow-sprinkled cupcakes Saturday outside of the Jackson Heights post office on 37th Avenue.
The ruling was a major victory in the gay rights movement across the nation and an important victory for the borough leaders and community activists.
“To have this celebration in Jackson Heights is important. They say that over 167 languages are spoken in Jackson Heights and, in fact, many LGBT immigrants come to this neighborhood seeking asylum from the discrimination, from the prejudice and the fear of being killed in their own countries,” Dromm said.
Dromm, a former public school teacher, came out as a gay man while teaching in a Sunnyside elementary school. He stood on the front lines of the gay rights movement more than 20 years ago in Queens after a gay man was murdered in Jackson Heights in a hate crime. He also started the second-largest LGBT parade, the Queens Pride Parade, in the city.
“So when I started in 1992, there were very few gay rights groups here—we had the murder of Julio Rivera here and Edgar Garzon on the other side. These were terrible hate crimes,” he said, referrng to (brief summary of both Rivera and Garzon killings here.
Dromm, who arranged the candlight vigil for Rivera this week, said, “when he was murdered, elected officials in this borough would not even stand with us – not even have their picture taken with us. That was only 25 years ago. We had to organize and force elected officials to take a stand.”
Other LGBT community leaders, such as longtime Irish activist Brendan Fay and his husband, Tom Moulton, who were married in Canada, also joined the celebration, “The words with liberty and justice for all take on new meaning for the LGBT community,” Fay said.
Fay helped gay couples travel to Canada to get married, where same-sex marriage has been recognized since 2005.
Jackson Heights residents Laura Cadorette and her wife Jessica Davis, who also joined the celebration, remembered when they had a hard time getting job benefits for each other.
“I remember trying to put Jessica on my benefits and they called her “my person” and it made you feel like you didn’t matter, ” Cadorette said. “Now we matter.”
For Michael Mallon, president of the Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club Queens, this was a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement and his personal life.
“I remember being in eighth grade and sitting down in my house and thinking there is no way that I can be an openly gay person with a happy life,” he said. “I would have to live my life in the closet, always careful, I would never be able to marry the person I love. What a miserable life that would have been.”
Dromm said invisibility was the greatest enemy of the LGBT community.
“Coming out one by one to family, friends and neighbors – letting people know who we are really makes a difference. Discrimination and prejudice all come from same root – fear and ignorance. If we want to combat fear and ignorance, we need to teach people at a young age that discrimination is wrong.”
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull