Stonewall Honoring New York Leaders at 2020 Annual Event

State Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins is among this year's honorees at the Stonewall Democratic Club's annual awards celebration.
New York State Senate

The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, a citywide LGBTQ political club, will honor three local leaders and a longtime New York advocate now prominent on the national stage at their annual event on October 20.

Alphonso David, former counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo, now heads the Human Rights Campaign in Washington.Courtesy of SDNYC

The honorees at this year’s event will be Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Alphonso David, former Stonewall president Rod Townsend, and Carlyn Cowen, who serves as the chief policy and public affairs officer of the Chinese-American Planning Council.

The club, which is hosting the party virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, has branded the event with the theme “We Are America” — and the club notes in an event description that it intends to “center party unity as we work to take back the White House!”

Club aims to “center party unity” at annual bash ahead of November election

Stewart-Cousins is being honored in the wake of overseeing the passage of long-stalled key LGBTQ rights legislative initiatives since Democrats recaptured control of the Senate two years ago. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which added gender identity and expression as a protected class in New York’s human rights and hate crimes laws, as well as a ban on conversion therapy for minors and the legalization of gestational surrogacy are among the top accomplishments Stewart-Cousins has helmed.

Queer activists are now working with the Senate and Assembly to move the repeal of a loitering law known as a ban on “Walking While Trans” due to the way the measure has primarily been used to discriminate against transgender women of color and sex workers. The measure has majority support in both chambers of the Legislature.

Rod Townsend, Stonewall’s immediate past president.Courtesy of SDNYC

David, who formerly served as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top counsel and had also been a staff attorney at Lambda Legal, was tapped to lead HRC last year. He has focused on bridging the divide between faith communities and the queer community, bringing attention to the rash of deadly violence targeting transgender women of color — particularly Black women — and is now spearheading an aggressive campaign to turn out the vote for former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris, and its endorsed candidates for the US Senate and House.

Townsend is gaining recognition from the club just weeks after he exited the race for City Council in District 22 and endorsed another out LGBTQ candidate in that race, Tiffany Cabán. Townsend, who is an active in neighborhood issues in Astoria and serves on Queens’ Community Board 1, played an important role in advocating for the passage the LGBTQ legislation approved in Albany last year.

Carlyn Cowen is the chief policy and public affairs officer of the Chinese-American Planning Council.Courtesy of SDNYC

In their post with the Chinese-American Planning Council, Cowen, a queer Filipinx, works on policy efforts for a social services organization that serves 60,000 city residents. But they have also made a name for themselves as an activist targeting a broad range of issues over the years, including opposition to the Iraq War and to the collaboration of local government with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to City and State. Cowen is also active with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

In addition to honorees and club members, the event is also expected to attract a slew of elected officials and candidates seeking office in 2021 eager to get before a politically influential crowd.

At last year’s event, which was held in-person prior to the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, the club honored Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund executive director Andy Marra, Harlem Pride president Carmen Neely, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, New York City District Council of Carpenters council representative Tamara Rivera, and Gay City News. Chasten Buttigieg was a guest speaker who offered lively insight into the presidential campaign of his husband, then-South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“We hope you can join us for a fun night in support of the hard work SDNYC does every day,” the club said in the event description.

The virtual gathering takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, October 20. Those who would like to purchase tickets, which begin at $50, can do so here.

Gay City News is a sponsor of the event.

Last year’s awards that went to the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund’s Andy Marra, Harlem Pride’s Carmen Neely, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, carpenters union leader Tamara Rivera, and Gay City News.

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