December 7, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Quinn: More work on LGBT issues needed in N.Y.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (Photo by Thomas Good)

HOUSTON — For lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the passage of a same-sex marriage law in New York was a big win, but she acknowledges that more work on LGBT issues is needed.

“It passed in a pretty low time in our economy and a tough time for the city and state, and what I’ve noticed is wherever I go in the city — even still — people are happy,” Quinn told the Washington Blade. “You go to senior centers, they’re still congratulating me. It’s really created, I think, a lot of joy and a stronger sense of community in the city.”

Quinn made the remarks during the 27th International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference — sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute — after a panel session titled “Victory in New York: A Model for Success,” in which participants discussed the strategy that led to the enactment of same-sex marriage in New York.

Despite that victory, one key piece of pro-LGBT state legislation that still hasn’t passed in New York is GENDA, or the Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would institute non-discrimination protections for transgender people in the private workforce.

Quinn noted that New York City has transgender protections, but called the lack of statutory protections at the state level “simply not acceptable.”

“So I think we can be simultaneously happy, proud of ourselves, but not satisfied because we have more work to do, and GENDA is top of that list,” Quinn said.

Quinn added she’s “optimistic” that transgender employment protections will pass “very soon” in the New York Legislature because Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) — credited with leading the marriage fight in New York — supports the measure.

Other advancements Quinn is seeking on LGBT issues include a reduction in hate crimes, additional funding for LGBT organizations and effective implementation of the Dignity for All Schools Act, a law that bars bullying in schools, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Asked about President Obama’s lack of support for marriage equality, Quinn said she’s unhappy with anyone who doesn’t support marriage rights for gay couples, but commends those who say they could evolve on the issue — which Obama has done.

“I applaud people who are open to discussing, thinking and evolving, and the president is certainly in that category, but I want him to fully get there,” Quinn said.

Quinn, who’s expected to run for mayor of New York City in 2013, declined to say whether she would pursue the office.

Pressed further on the implications of having an openly lesbian mayor of the nation’s largest city, Quinn said an openly LGBT person winning elected office anywhere is a “step forward.”

“I think anytime somebody who’s openly LGBT gets elected to office — whatever office that is, whatever city, state, town that’s in — it is helpful to moving LGBT issues forward, and all civil and human rights issues forward,” Quinn said. “What city it is, what position it is doesn’t matter. Anytime it happens, it’s a step forward for everybody.”

A transcript of the interview with Quinn follows:

Washington Blade: You’ve had marriage equality in New York State for quite a few months now. How do you think that has changed New York City?

Christine Quinn: I think the thing that’s most fun about marriage equality passing is how happy it has made people. It passed in a pretty low time in our economy and a tough time for the city and state, and what I’ve noticed is wherever I go in the city — even still — people are happy. You go to senior centers, they’re still congratulating me. It’s really created, I think, a lot of joy and a stronger sense of community in the city.

Blade: Marriage equality is a big win, but statutory protections for transgender people in the workplace remains outstanding in the State of New York. Do you have any —

Quinn: Absolutely. Our work is not done. We have the GENDA in New York City; we don’t have it in New York State. And that’s simply not acceptable, so I think we can be simultaneously happy, proud of ourselves, but not satisfied because we have more work to do, and GENDA is top of that list.

Blade: I know you’re not in Albany, but are you able to make a prediction for when you think we will see those protections put in place?

Quinn: I’m optimistic that GENDA will be passed very soon. The governor, who is incredibly popular and incredibly effective, is supportive. He was one of the key differences in getting marriage, so I’m very optimistic it’ll be in the near future.

Blade: Are there any other LGBT issues you want to see addressed either at the state or city level?

Quinn: We have to find ways to reduce hate crimes against all people — particularly people who are perceived to be LGBT.

Our statewide advocacy group, the [Empire State] Pride Agenda, has done a lot of great work around funding for LGBT organizations. Our organizations are funded at a disproportionately low percentage compared to others. That health and human service work has to continue.

And we have a big “to-do” on our list, which is to get to the Dignity for All Schools Act implemented effectively over the next couple years. So that’s just a few.

Blade: What’s your take on the presidential race, and as a Democrat do you have a favorite candidate among the Republicans?

Quinn: My favorite candidate is President Obama. And he’s going to win re-election, and I think the Republicans make it clearer every day of the week that there is no one worth supporting on their side.

Blade: At the federal level, we’ve seen a lot of advances, but President Obama has yet to support marriage equality. Does that disappoint you?

Quinn: I’m disappointed in anybody who doesn’t agree with us in marriage equality. That said, I applaud people who are open to discussing, thinking and evolving, and the president is certainly in that category, but I want him to fully get there.

Blade: I’m sure a lot of people are asking you this, but I’m going to take a stab at it here. Are you going to run for mayor in 2013?

Quinn: There’s more time to talk about that, but thank you for asking me all the legislative questions.

Blade: One last question for you. Hypothetically speaking, what do you think would be the implications of having an openly lesbian mayor of the nation’s largest city?

Quinn: Look, I think anytime somebody who’s openly LGBT gets elected to office — whatever office that is, whatever city, state, town that’s in — it is helpful to moving LGBT issues forward, and all civil and human rights issues forward. What city it is, what position it is doesn’t matter. Anytime it happens, it’s a step forward for everybody.

Blade: Thank you so much, Madam Speaker.

Watch the video of the interview here:

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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