In the 70s, gay activists marched through
Woodside with picket signs calling for equality. In the 80s and 90s, the Gay Pride Parade
marched the line through Jackson Heights with a pageantry and flamboyance that received
positive and negative feedback.
At last weeks St. Patricks Day Parade,
Queens Gay Pride Activist Daniel Dromm prepares to embrace First Lady Hillary Rodham
Clinton during the festivities that included the entire spectrum of the Queens community
marching side by side.
Tribune Photo By Ira Cohen
But this week in Queens 2000, the gay groups were just
one of the organizers, and their banners just part of the crowd for the boroughs
first St. Patricks Day parade, and a bold sign that at least the attitudes of some
neighbors have changed.
Brendan Fay, co-chair of the Queens St. Patricks Day Parade and a
member of the Lavender and Green Alliance, said, "The parade was a breakthrough . . .
parades are a human-ritual gathering, a cultural gathering . . . now imagine that
youre not welcome."
The Queens celebration brought together leaders in the
gay community with religious leaders, politicians, civic groups and community
organizations for a joint community effort. They marched together peacefully, banner after
banner, as neighbors, sharing the spotlight with the international persona of First Lady
Hillary Clinton. And everyone not matter their race, politics or sexual orientation wanted
to march with Clinton.
But even in the spirit of tolerance that surrounded the event, there
were voices of opposition.
Morality Action Committee (MAC), a group led by Paul Morrisey which is
fundamentally against gay rights, leafleted the Sunnyside/Woodside area with pamphlets
which included the terms "sacrilegious, blasphemy, and sodomites."
There were also a couple of MAC members who temporarily blocked the
procession down Skillman Avenue, kneeling in the street, clutching their rosaries and
praying, clearly objecting to the inclusive nature of the celebration. Police removed them
without protest, and the parade continued.
Are the Times a Changing?
Even factoring in the occasional incident, Daniel Dromm,
co-chair of the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee is confident that things are
changing for the better.
"Eight or nine years ago [candidates] would use a lesbian and gay
endorsement against one another," said Dromm. "I think the Jackson Heights Gay
Pride Parade went a long way to change that. The parade mobilizes around 40,000 people and
elected officials have taken notice."
Dromm also said that around 10 percent of voters identify as open
lesbian or gay in Citywide elections.
Ellen Duncan of the Ethical Cultures Society of Queens agrees with
Dromm. "There is marked improvement. More gays are out being who they are. It is very
cruel to not be able to be who you are," said Duncan.
The Religious Connotation
Some of the discrimination against homosexuals has come
through religion, even though there are members within the clergy who are more
In the 70s, activists marched in Woodside to fight for
equal rights (above). By the 90s, homesexuals were marching in their own pride parade in
Jackson Heights, but objections from the sidelines continued (below).
During the Queens parade, the Queen of Angels Church
located along the parade route, refused to let children use the bathrooms inside,
according to Duncan.
Fay said that "some churches have been asking parishioners
to keep from participating in the Queens St. Patricks Day Parade. Religious and
political leaders have to address hate and discrimination that continues on a daily
Where the Legislators Stand
Legislators in the Queens Assembly have fought to pass
hate-crime laws, and appear to be taking Fays advice. The New York City Gay and
Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP) generated data represented in grades, rating the
Assembly and the Senate on their support for a proposed "hate-crimes bill."
The hate-crimes bill states that crimes committed against another
person or group based on some form of prejudice or discrimination would carry higher
penalties in a court of law.
The Assembly has been strong in pushing the hate-crimes bill, but
members of the Senate squash the bill every time it comes to vote.
The variance among politicians with respect to domestic partnership
legislation is somewhat more diverse. Domestic partnership legislation would recognize
same-sex relationships the same way heterosexual relationships are recognized.
Assemblyman Mark Weprin earned an "A-plus" from the AVP, and
co-sponsored the hate-crimes bill. Weprin is also a strong supporter of same-sex
Weprin has been in contact with countywide groups such as Parents and
Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which reach out to the community and foster
"In Queens I havent sensed a strong anti-gay
sentiment," said Weprin, who continues to push the hate-crimes bill. "As far as
domestic partnership legislation, Hawaii had a case. We recognize marriages from any other
state, but they are not allowed by law in New York State."
Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn was also a recipient of an
"A-plus" from the AVP. In addition to her support of the bill, she is for
domestic partnership legislation, but is against the issue of same sex marriages.
"There is more understanding of the gay lifestyle. In Queens,
crimes against [homosexuals] have not been a major issue, or are just not visible,"
Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, of Ozone Park, was in agreement with
Mayersohn on most points, also receiving an "A-plus" grade.
"People are under the impression that relations are improving.
There have been no incidents that I know of. If its there I dont know about
it," said Cook, who continues to support the bill. She is also in favor of domestic
partnership and sees nothing wrong with same-sex marriages.
Howard Pollack, spokesperson for Assemblyman Michael Cohen, said,
"Assemblyman Cohen has voted for hate-crimes legislation, and each time the Senate
kills it. For the past 11 years the bill has been killed after being passed by the
Assembly." Cohen received an "A" from the AVP.
Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio received an "A" grade, but his
stance is one of opposition to same-sex partnership legislation.
All members of the Assembly received at least an "A" rating.
In the Senate, however, two grades of "F" were doled out.
Senators Frank Padavan and Serphin Maltese each received an
"F" grade for their opposition to the hate-crimes bill.
Ed DeCosmo, spokesperson for Padavan, said, "The proposed bill
would result in unequal justice where an individual committing an act of violence with an
unknown motive would receive a less severe penalty. Courts could decide if the motive was
dislike or animosity, and as a result, have situations where similar crimes are treated
Dromm considered the comments by DeCosmo to be off base.
"According to [DeCosmo] there is no difference in spray painting a daisy on the wall
of a temple or spray painting a swastika," said Dromm.
One of the strongest supporters of the bill in the Senate is Senator
Dan Hevesi, earning an "A-plus" from the AVP. "There are some in the Senate
that believe passing this bill is condoning homosexuality. Thats ridiculous. If
there was not a sexual orientation issue in this bill it surely would have been passed by
The Queens City Council delegation is also still an important force
indicating local attitude.
Councilwoman Helen Marshall has been active in improving gay rights. In
addition to supporting hate-crimes legislation, Marshall "supports legislation that
helps people live better lives."
Speaker Peter Vallone has supported the hate crimes bill and in 1998
passed a domestic partnership bill which applied to city employees, according to
spokesperson Bernice Spitzer.
Senior Action in a Gay Environment (SAGE) member Tina Donovan, said,
"We go to Albany to approach the [representatives] and they become evasive. Its
not like were fighting for special rights. Were just human beings fighting for
My State Of Gay Affairs
By Daniel Dromm, co-chairperson of the Queens Lesbian and Gay
Pride Committee (QLGPC)
Today, life for me as a gay man is a really mixed bag.
On the one hand, things are markedly different than when I was a kid.
Gay people are beginning to approach equality; something I couldnt imagine when I
first came out in 1973.
Daniel Dromm marching in the
Jackson Heights Gay Pride Parade.
Gone are my deep rooted feelings of self hatred, self doubt and
internalized homophobia. It was a rough ride for a while. I used to think that I was the
only one who was gay.
I take great pride in my community a community I helped to
create in Queens. Invisibility, our greatest oppressor, is constantly being smashed.
Today, I have the respect of my peers gay and straight.
Having recently been elected as the United Federation of Teachers
chapter leader in my school, P.S. 199Q in Sunnyside, has given me a great sense of self
worth and pride. It serves as an affirmation from my colleagues that my sexual orientation
has nothing to do with how well I do my job. My co-workers have allowed me to prove the
hate mongers wrong.
I am moved by the level of acceptance that the parents of the children
I teach have shown. It is a great feeling to know I can be open about my orientation, even
with my students, and not to have to worry about being fired.
Today as a gay man, I am committed to advancing the day when children
will grow up believing that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered is apart of
Gods plan. I look around my classroom and I know that of the 34 kids I teach, at
least three will grow up to be gay. Those youngsters need to know that gay is good because
they are good.
God made them just the way they are.
I consider myself fortunate because I have supportive friends. I
shutter to think of how isolated my gay senior citizen friends were before the Stonewall
riots in 1969 and of how horribly they were treated being thrown in jail, losing
jobs to discrimination, fearing public disclosure, facing the loss of family ties
simply for associating with other gays.
Unfortunately, elements of those days remain. I still cant get
married to another man. The president and Congress recently made sure of that.
The sound of religious intolerance rings daily in my ears. Republicans
and members of the religious right declare my sexuality a perversion. The cardinal tries
to block civil rights for gays. I still look over my shoulder at night when Im in a
gay neighborhood for fear that someone might make me the next victim of a hate crime.
But I believe that Ive been able to change my world.
This knowledge is what has motivated me to come out and to become a member of the
lesbian and gay civil rights movement. For these changes Im grateful. I look forward
to the changes yet to come.
|The Wearin Of The Green In
Thousands of onlookers lined the 20-block
stretch of Skillman Avenue on Sunday, March 5, to help inaugurate the first St.
Patricks Day Parade in Queens, and to wave their approval to First Lady Marcher
Hillary Rodham Clinton.
with the Pride O
The parade was lead by
childrens groups in keeping with the slogan of Irish independence "cherishing
all children of the nation equally," and was organized to include any kind of group
that wished to march behind its banner is march in contrast to the Manhattan parade
organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which will not allow gay and lesbian groups
to march behind their organizations banners because they "oppose the ideologies
of the Catholic Church."
Brendan Fay, co-chair of the parade,
said, "This is the beginning of what we expect to be an annual tradition.
Discrimination is a reality that we face everyday. Its in the workplace, subway,
school yard, and even against senior citizens."
But besides the various floats,
fifteen-foot tall puppets, music, culturual groups and other forms of revelry, the main
attraction was the First Lady and New York Senate hopeful, Hillary Clinton. Clinton seemed
to be a center of attention, surrounded by a jumble of fellow New York Democrats and local
supporting voters. Television cameras met her at every corner, and she was mobbed by
spectators who wanted to get a closer look.
However, a few hecklers did follow Clinton
down the parade route, chanting "Go back to Arkansas!" or
"Carpetbagger!" in reference to her attempts to "became a New Yorker."
Mayor Rudy Giuliani declined the chance to
march in the Queens St. Pats Parade that his prime Congressional rival reveled in,
but will attend the Manhattan celebration on March 17, as will Clinton.
7) Parade organizers start the greenin of Sunnyside.
8) Councilmember John Sabini chats with City Controller Alan
9) L to R Barbara Ann Perina, Wayne Mahlke president of the
Lesbian ad Gay Democratic Club, Rep. Joe Crowley, Maritza Martinez co-chair of the Queens
Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, and Brian ODwyer.
Photos 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9
by Ira Cohen
Photos 3, 4, 5 by Dee Richard
They were all there the McCafferys,
the Crowleys, the O Sabinis even a Irishman named Grandpa at the
boroughs St. Pattys Day Parade in Sunnyside, home to the largest Irish
Community in New York City.