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Brooklyn Gay Democrats Turn 25 (GCN, 4.18.03)

Pauline Park & Carl Eden receiv Pride At Work awards

Brooklyn Gay Democrats Turn 25

In a first, top Lambda honor goes to non-Brooklynite, Tom Duane

By Mick Meenan
Gay City News
18 April 2003

A host of Democratic officials gathered in Brooklyn Saturday, April 12, to join the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Lambda Independent Democrats (LID), the borough’s gay political club. The noon fest at the historic Gage and Tollner restaurant in downtown Brooklyn showcased the insurgent influence of a once-local political club turned citywide power broker. “I was a high school freshman when LID was formed in 1977,” said Dan Tietz, LID’s president, in opening remarks, referring to his boyhood on a Wisconsin dairy farm.

The bevy of members of Congress, state legislators, and City Councilmembers present attested to the club’s ongoing efforts to influence policy on a host of issues of concern to the LGBT community. The gathering included a virtual Who’s Who of Democratic politics in Brooklyn and beyond, including United States Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Valazquez, both of whom represent districts that include sections of Brooklyn turf, as well as a host of state and city officials, including out gay State Senator Tom Duane, an honoree. The event showcased the eagerness of city Democrats to align themselves with the LGBT agenda. “SONDA is an accomplishment,” said David Yassky, a City Councilmember who represents Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, and Park Slope. “Marriage equality is in sight.”

The club presented awards to a variety of individuals for their achievements in service to the LGBT community. Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president who previously represented Park Slope in the State Senate, introduced Irene Lore, a Brooklyn native and recipient of an award for her philanthropic efforts as a restaurateur and supporter of civic groups in the LGBT community. “Marty and I have a lot in common,” Lore quipped. “We’re both dykes. We both love Brooklyn.” Alan Van Capelle, the incoming executive director at the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), introduced the recipients of the Pride at Work Award, bestowed on Carl Eden and Pauline Park, both of whom have been outspoken in their respective unions about LGBT inclusiveness.

“When most think of the AFL-CIO,” said Park, a transgendered woman, “they don’t think of me. But I am a union member.” Park is a unionized writer and co-chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA). Eden, talked about being a member of the Radical Faeries, a gay spiritual fellowship that dates back to the late 1970s. In his remarks, Van Capelle emphasized the importance of fostering coalitions between labor unions and LGBT organizations. Van Capelle is currently deputy political director at Local 32 BJ, a buildings service workers union affiliated with SEIU. “One of the first picket lines I went to, the workers were chanting the boss was a faggot,” said Van Capelle. “ A progressive philosophy at the administrative level doesn’t always trickle down to the rank and file.” The lesson Van Capelle concluded, is that “labor and LGBT issue are intertwined.”

In a recent conversation with Gay City News, Van Capelle discussed such coalition building in the context of Intro 101, a bill now before the City Council that would strengthen prevention of childhood lead poisoning. Studies have shown that the majority of victims are children of color in the inner city. Such issues as “living wage bill, lead paint removal, and predatory lending,” said Van Capelle, “affect LGBT individuals as they do others and our community needs to acquaint itself with the organizations that seek to redress such issues in light of the coalition-building we seek to foster redress for our needs.”

State Senator Tom Duane received the Peter Vogel Service Award, a first for a non-Brooklyn native. Vogel, an LID pioneer who died of AIDS, was a longtime gay rights activist and served as the gay and lesbian liaison for former Governor Mario Cuomo. In his introduction, State Senator Carl Andrews of Brooklyn referred to Duane as “the conscience of the Senate.” By way of opening his remarks, Duane quipped, “I was raised in Queens and went to an all gay Catholic high school.” Duane discussed the fights Democrats are facing over the Albany budget, including possible cuts looming in social services directed to the LGBT community. Duane also recapped his Senate floor fight this past December, when he unsuccessfully fought to include a transgender rights amendment to the Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Bill (SONDA). “I want to thank the 19 senators who voted with us to amend SONDA,” he said. “Nineteen Senators is a lot of senators.” The State Senate has 61 members, and a Republican majority. Duane called for overturning the Rockefeller drug laws, viewed by many elected officials and drug policy experts as stacked against people of color, as well as safeguarding against measures which “criminalize people with HIV.” The latter comment was a reference to a bill pending in Albany that calls for mandatory HIV testing for any person who assaults a law enforcement official.

A number of Duane’s Senate colleagues were present, including Andrews and Velmanette Montgomery, another Brooklyn Democrat. Also present at the event were City Councilmember Bill DeBlasio, Ronald Johnson of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Matt Chachère, the lead attorney for NYCCELP, a community-based group seeking to enact a stricter childhood lead poisoning law, and his wife, Judge Margarita López Torres, Dick Dadey, the former head of ESPA, and C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan Borough President. Bethany Joseph, a former LID official, Joey Pressley, the head of the New York AIDS Coalition, and Andrea Batista Schlesinger, who is also active with the Out People of Color Political Action Club, were also recognized for their activism in the community.

This article originally appeared in the 18 April 2003 issue of Gay City News.


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