Friday, November 16, 2007

LGBT New Yorkers Make Their Political Mark

Politics remains the consistent blood sport in New York with special interest groups across the city continuing to secure a seat at the ever-partisan table. This trend certainly holds true among local LGBT political organizations in the Five Boroughs as I reported this week in EDGE New York. Many Democratic activists have set their sites on reclaiming the state Senate next November after Majority Leader Joseph Bruno [R-Saratoga Springs] blocked a bill to extend marriage to same-sex couples in July. Gay Republicans are also eager to advance the LGBT agenda through the perennial log jam that is Albany. Stay tuned!

With New York politicians already jockeying up support for their upcoming re-election (or election) campaigns, local LGBT political continue their quest to secure their place at the partisan table.

Lambda Independent Democrats member and long-time Brooklyn gay politico Alan Fleishman is among those who contend these clubs will play a pivotal in upcoming local, statewide and even national elections. The former Democratic district leader for Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope and other so-called Brownstone neighborhoods first became involved with the city’s highly territorial political scene in the late 1980s with former Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman’s successful New York City Comptroller campaign. Fleishman was also among the gay politicos who blasted Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s endorsement of former Councilmember Noach Dear [D-Borough Park] for Civil Court Judge in September.

Fleishman was quick to point out to EDGE in a recent interview that Dear opposed the city’s 1986 gay rights law. He added LID members have also joined Councilmember Letitia James [D-Fort Greene] and other local officials in opposing the sprawling Atlantic Yards project. But Fleishman added LGBT political organizations have a responsibility to point out the anti-LGBT positions among those who seek public office.

"We’ve pointed out when politicians have strayed from being friends of the LGBT community," Fleishman said. "When issues impact our community, we make sure we get involved."

Staten Island Stonewall co-founder Rosemary Palladino agreed. She added her organization and others across the city play an additional role through voter registration and even raising money for candidates who support marriage for same-sex couples and other LGBT issues.

"Our mission is to be sure Staten Island politicians understand that there is something in it for them to support us," Palladino said. "We certainly intend to play an active role."

Lew Goldstein of the now defunct Lambda Democrats of the Bronx was equally as pragmatic. He predicted LGBT political clubs will factor into the Democrats overall strategy to regain control of the state Senate next November. Republicans maintain a slim majority but Goldstein contends LGBT New Yorkers will help secure a Democratic take-over.

"We elect those who are with us... and make sure they don’t lose in the primary," he said. "Our community is very, very important in all areas."

David Verchere, president of Log Cabin Republicans of New York City, said his organization and gay Republicans in the city and across New York State will continue to help elect LGBT-friendly lawmakers in both the Senate and the state Assembly. And he added gay GOPers will continue to play an important role in lobbying Albany to support marriage for same-sex couples and other LGBT legislation.

"We’re essential advocates for our community’s legislative agenda," Verchere said.

Senate control remains the primary issue for many LGBT politicos after Majority Leader Joseph Bruno [R-Saratoga Springs] blocked a bill in July which would have legalized gay and lesbian nuptials. The Empire State Pride Agenda and other local LGBT organizations continue their lobbying efforts in Albany but many LGBT politicos contend marriage, the Gender Education Non-Discrimination Act and the Dignity in All Schools Act would advance if Democrats reclaim the Senate.

LGBT voters also account for an estimated 15 percent of the total Democratic primary turnout. This growing voter bloc could have an impact on openly lesbian Council Speaker Christine Quinn [D-Chelsea] and other probable 2009 mayoral contenders.

Melissa Sklarz, a board member for National Stonewall Democrats, for sees that LGBT political organizations will play an even more important role in local, statewide and even national politics this election cycle than in previous campaigns. She added New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid has further energized these groups.

"You will see a huge, huge involvement," Sklarz said. "It’s a great opportunity for queer people to get involved and make a difference in our lives to help out in 2008."

Fleishman readily agreed.

"We’re still going to continue to be involved in the process and continue to make the best judgment calls we can for the LGBT community," he said.

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