Queens could likely have four openly gay candidates running for City Council next year.
By Ben Hogwood
openly gay candidate has to be interested in the
same issues as any candidate running for political
office, issues such as education, taxes and quality
But at some point, the candidate will have to
address their sexuality, said Daniel Dromm, a
school teacher and long-time gay rights activist
exploring a run for a City Council seat next year.
"It still remains a bit of a turnoff," said Dromm,
"but I think over the last 30, 40 years now, we've
made great strides in the movement."
|Long-time gay rights activist Danny Dromm.
Before Dromm, there was little unity amongst the
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community
in Queens. When Julio Rivera, a bartender from
the Bronx, was bludgeoned to death in Jackson
Heights by three people in 1990, there wasn't
a local organized group to denounce the horror.
Fortunately, this is no longer the case and much
of this has to do with Dromm's baby, the Queens
Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade, which runs through
Jackson Heights and started in 1993. Not only
was it a major step in the gay rights movement,
it also had an effect politically.
"When we first had the parade, we could show there
were large numbers of LGBT people living in Queens
communities," Dromm said about the roughly 10,000
that came. This made politicians sit up and notice
that there was a large demographic of LGBT voters,
as well as supportive friends and family, that
lived in Queens.
While the LGBT community provides a strong base
for a gay candidate to venture into politics,
it likely isn't enough to win an election. Dromm
said that when he first came out as an openly
gay school teacher, he was given an invaluable
piece of advice from the late Rita Cassel, who
at the time was with a group called Democrats
for New Politics. Cassel told Dromm to mix with
people outside his own constituency.
"I followed that," Dromm said. "I went out to
many different organizations … to mix and mingle,
so they could get to know me and I could get to
Dromm isn't the first openly gay person to run
for a Queens political seat. In 1998, Ed Sedarbaum
ran for the State Senate and in 2001, Jimmy Van
Bremer ran for City Council. Both campaigns were
Also, Charles Ober is an openly gay candidate
running for the recently vacated City Council
seat formerly occupied by Dennis Gallagher. Mayor
Mike Bloomberg called a Special Election, to be
held June 3, after Gallagher pleaded guilty to
two misdemeanors following accusations that he
sexually assaulted a 52-year-old woman.
Ober's sexuality came under assault earlier this
month when a hate-filled letter was sent to voters
in the district, filled with profanity condemning
his orientation. The author of the letter is unknown
but accusations have flown.
If Ober isn't the first openly gay candidate elected,
three people in addition to Dromm have been linked
to possible runs next year. Those include Van
Bramer of Sunnyside, Alfonso Quiroz of Jackson
Heights and Lyn Shulman of Forest Hills.
The fact that so many gay candidates are running
for a seat when less than 20 years ago there was
hardly a uniting voice to speak for gay people
in the borough shows just how far the gay rights
movement has come. But the fact a candidate has
yet to be elected may indicate there is still
"I've always believed when people know you as
a human being, it's harder for them to demonize
you," said Dromm.