City Comptroller William Thompson marked LGBT Pride Month at the Community Center June 9 by celebrating veteran activists and his own success in using shareholder resolutions to get companies to adopt policies banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Jeff Simmons, the comptroller’s gay press secretary, introduced Thompson with a bit of a political wish, saying he was “hoping he’ll be able to perform my own wedding in another four years.” Thompson is a supporter of same-sex marriage, and though running for reelection this year, is considered a likely mayoral candidate in 2009 should a Democrat fail to unseat incumbent Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg this November.
“It’s rare that I’m almost speechless,” Thompson responded.
Rev. Pat Bumgardner, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of NY, gave an invocation that summarized the year’s “amazing victories” and reminded the crowd of roughly 200, “Equality isn’t something someone gives you or can take away, it is something you do, a way of life. It is practicing what you are seeking.”
Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a co-sponsor of the event, said, “Nothing that we enjoy just happened. Pride Month should be about celebrating those who came before us.” Van Capelle praised Thompson for using the leverage of New York massive pension funds in the stock market to “raise the bar for people all over the country.”
Clarence Patton, the acting director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, noted that anti-gay bashings rose 26 percent in 2003 when there were gay breakthroughs on anti-sodomy laws and marriage and only subsided by two percent last year. “People understand we’re getting to where we need to be and that scares them,” he said.
Thompson honored businessman Florent Morellet, a gay activist and right-to-die advocate, who spoke of a coming-out process that began in 1968 in his “little town” in France. “I was never scared,” the restaurateur said.
Also honored were Paisley Currah, a transgender activist who is director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY, playwright and actor Charles Busch, Emil Wilbekin, the former editor of Vibe magazine, and Eleanor Cooper, 64, a founder of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights that successfully pushed for the city’s lesbian and gay rights law in 1986.
Cooper, who has been disabled by a stroke, made one her rare forays outside her nursing home on West 106th Street. She did not have a speech to make after being presented with her award. But asked how she feels about the current president, she said, “He nauseates me.” She spent the rest of the evening surrounded by sister activists from Lesbian Feminist Liberation and the Coalition, including Betty Santoro, Joyce Hunter, Kitty Cotter, Joy Kallio, Jan Baer and Joan Nixon.