The overflow crowd at the LGBT Community Center on November 20. | ZACH WILLIAMS
As New York City’s LGBT community grapples with how to respond to Donald Trump winning the White House and Republicans maintaining control of Congress, Democrats have dominated the response at community meetings and argued that the community should rely on congressional members of their party to halt the worst Republican proposals.
“Elections have consequences and that means a lot of what we’re going to do is mitigating damages,” Congressmember Jerry Nadler, a Democrat who represents Manhattan’s West Side and portions of Brooklyn, said at a November 20 town hall held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “The Republicans are going to pass a budget that is going to murder social services.”
The town hall was organized by Democrat Corey Johnson, an out gay city councilmember who represents the West Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen, and in an indication of the community’s concern with the election results, it drew several hundred people. The crowd filled the Center’s largest meeting space and spilled out into the hallway.
Series of LGBT town halls in Manhattan highlight grave concerns over election upset
As State Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Senator Brad Hoylman look on at a November 20 town hall, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledges the city’s cooperation in resisting Trump administration moves against communities from immigrants to LGBT New Yorkers. | ZACH WILLIAMS
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been touring the city talking about a Trump presidency and the Republican Congress, sought to reassure the crowd that his administration and the city were prepared to challenge Republicans and suggested that people’s worst fears may not be realized. Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, de Blasio emphasized.
“Donald Trump does not have a popular majority,” the mayor said, adding that if the Republicans should, for example, attempt to ban abortion or overturn marriage equality, “There will be a national political uprising against that.”
Other Democratic elected officials who attended included State Assemblymember Deborah Glick, an out lesbian who represents the West Village, Ritchie Torres, an openly gay councilmember who represents parts of the Bronx, and Brad Hoylman, an out gay state senator who represents large parts of Manhattan.
COVER DESIGN BY MICHAEL SHIREY
A name that was repeatedly invoked was Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who will lead the minority caucus in the US Senate. While Democrats in the House have a few tools they can use to slow Republican efforts to undo entitlements, health insurance available under Obamacare, worker protections, and environmental laws, Senate Democrats can use the far more powerful filibuster that requires the majority to muster 60 votes to end debate on legislation and proceed to a vote.
On January 3, when the 115th Congress first meets, Republicans will have 51 seats in the Senate and Democrats will have 48 (an open Louisiana seat will be decided in a December 10 runoff). Schumer was not invited to the town hall. In press reports, he has indicated a willingness to use the filibuster.
What was clear from the November 20 town hall and an earlier November 16 meeting organized by the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City is that Democrats are arguing that the broader community should vest any resistance to Republican proposals in their party. Audience members and speakers urged people to prepare for the 2018 midterm elections. Of the 33 Senate seats up for reelection in 2018, eight are held by Republicans and 25 are held by Democrats, suggesting that Democrats will have an uphill battle to regain the majority at that time.
TransPAC’s Mel Wymore addresses a November 16 meeting of the Stonewall Democrats. | DONNA ACETO
Some speakers asked that the community focus its energy on New York State, a not unreasonable request given that liberals and progressives are unlikely to see any gains out of Washington, DC, over the next two years and perhaps even the next four.
At the Stonewall meeting, Mel Wymore, who heads TransPAC, and Matthew McMorrow, who heads Equality NY PAC, said that while fighting in Congress would be necessary, a focus on local and state governments was warranted as well.
“There is a lot we can do at all levels of government,” Wymore told the crowd of more than 200 who gathered at the Center that night.
TransPAC and Equality NY PAC were founded after the Empire State Pride Agenda, once New York’s only statewide LGBT group, closed its doors last year. While they were largely unsuccessful, both groups backed Democrats seeking State Senate seats in this month’s election. Enacting a state transgender civil rights law is a key goal of both groups.
Matthew McMorrow of Equality NY PAC at the Stonewall Democrats meeting. | DONNA ACETO
Trump’s win has sparked protests across the nation, and as he has announced some Cabinet nominees as well as others who will work in his administration but do not have to be approved by the Senate, some of those protests have grown louder. His selection of Steve Bannon, the former publisher of breitbart.com, the right wing website, as a senior advisor prompted criticism even among some conservatives who view Bannon as racist. The choice of Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney generally was widely panned by civil rights groups, including LGBT advocates.
While the community worries about losing some hard won gains, what appears to be a burst of violence across the country apparently perpetrated by Trump supporters targeted a number of groups. Trump used slurs against Mexican immigrants and Muslims during his campaign and exhorted his supporters to violence in some of his rallies.
“There is no question that Trump has unleashed the worst elements in our society,” Hoylman said during the Stonewall meeting.
Hoylman, who is converting to the Jewish faith of his husband, has been subject to two instances of anti-Semitic harassment at his West Village home in recent days.
As Gay City News went to press on November 22, community activists were holding another town hall meeting at the Center to discuss responses to Trump’s election and continued Republican control of Congress.