NEW YORK—New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s May 19 wedding to long-time partner Kim Catullo was quite possibly the Empire State’s political marriage of the year — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were among those who attended the ceremony in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, while retired New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye officiated the wedding.
“When New York State passed marriage equality, one could feel the joy on the streets,” Quinn told the Washington Blade in a recent interview, referencing the same-sex marriage bill that the state Senate narrowly passed in June 2011. Cuomo almost immediately signed it into law. “Everywhere couples went, people asked when are they getting married, what will their wedding be like? You could see and feel their happiness. The fear and gloom that opponents predicted did not come true, the world did not end when gay people could marry. Just the opposite, people felt love and joy. We had the opportunity to publicly commit in a legal ceremony in front of our family and friends, that we are a couple, we are family. And we are just as important as any other family. I will always be grateful for that day and remember that day for the rest of my life.”
Quinn became speaker in 2006. A Quinnipiac University poll last month shows that she remains the front-runner among likely Democratic mayoral candidates who seek to succeed Bloomberg in 2013.
Quinn declined to respond to the Blade’s questions about her presumptive mayoral campaign, but LGBT issues remain an integral part of her overall agenda.
She introduced a bill in 2004 that would have required city contractors to offer equal benefits to registered same-sex domestic partners and married heterosexual couples. Quinn, 46, also worked with Bloomberg and the city’s Department of Education to implement an anti-bullying curriculum in the city’s public schools — a state law, the Dignity in All Schools Act, which specifically bans harassment based on a student’s sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, took effect in July.
Quinn, who was executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project from 1996 to 1999, routinely speaks out against anti-LGBT violence in the five boroughs. She joined other New York City officials who criticized Puerto Rico Gov. Luís Fortuño and his administration for what they contend was an unwillingness to stop anti-LGBT violence on the island in the wake of gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado’s 2009 murder. Quinn also continues to boycott the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade because organizers prohibit gay men and lesbians from marching.
The once vocal Bloomberg critic faced widespread criticism from LGBT Democrats, fellow progressives and others in 2008 when she supported the extension of term-limits that allowed the mayor and other city officials, including herself, to run for a third-term. Quinn earlier in the same year also acknowledged a City Council slush fund appropriated more than $17 million to community organizations that did not exist since 2001. She sparked further controversy in July when she demanded that the president of New York University remove Chick-fil-A from campus in response to CEO Dan Cathy’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
Quinn did not comment about those criticisms, but she stressed she feels that nuptials for same-sex couples and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act remain top priorities for LGBT Americans going into the presidential election. Quinn further pointed to immigration reform that she said would allow “for families to stay connected until” DOMA is repealed and passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as important priorities.
Quinn, who was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, further applauded President Obama’s record in support of same-sex marriage and other issues. She spoke to the Blade hours after she attended a celebration at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan that commemorated the first anniversary of the repeal of the ban on openly gay service members.
“I am very confident that when people think about what the president offers, his message that we all need to work together, and we can’t leave anyone behind, they will come out and vote for him,” said Quinn. “This message clearly includes members of the LGBT community. He has supported issues for our community more than any other president. We must get out there, urge our friends and family to vote, become involved, go to a swing state if need be. We can’t go back to a time when we lost rights. We must go forward and re-elect President Obama.”