Christine Quinn

In January, Christine Quinn was elected to one of the most powerful positions in New York City government: speaker of the city council. She is the first woman and the first openly gay person to hold the office. A Democrat representing Manhattan’s gay-heavy district 3, this former housing advocate was first elected to the council in 1999 and since then has been a leader in addressing HIV/AIDS and crystal meth abuse issues.

BY Advocate.com Editors

February 28 2006 12:00 AM ET

Many observers say you’re the most powerful LGBT
politician in the country now. Do you agree?
I think I’ve certainly risen to a great level in
politics, but I think those folks like Barney Frank
and Tammy Baldwin who are leading us in Congress are
perhaps the most important people we have right
now—the folks who are on the front line of
where most of the attack is coming. That said,
it’s obviously extraordinarily thrilling to have won
this position and to have gained the support of so
many of my colleagues and so many of the other
political leaders in New York City.

What message does your victory send?
I think it sends a great message to particularly young
women and young LGBT people that in the city of New
York—they say if you can make it here, you can
make it anywhere—being a woman, being LGBT is not a
hindrance. If you have great dreams and you work very hard,
you can make those dreams reality. I hope that the
people who voted for me and supported me in this
effort know the tremendous gift they have given young
women and young LGBT people.

Much of your support came from Queens, Brooklyn, and the
Bronx. Those areas are not exactly progressive
hotbeds compared with Manhattan’s west side.

They may not be the west side of Manhattan, but
as I had the honor and fun of traveling around the
city for the past couple of years running for speaker,
there’s no borough that I’ve gone to where I
haven’t met or interacted with an LGBT person.
And in the city of New York, although we’re
obviously concentrated somewhat in some neighborhoods more
than others, the truth is, we really are
everywhere—and all of the county Democratic
organizations now have active LGBT members. This victory is
a reflection of how hard rank-and-file LGBT Democrats
have worked and how much progress they have made in
moving our community forward in politics and activism
in this city.

Does that movement bode well for the LGBT population nationally?
What I hope people can take from this isn’t that
you need to pick a good horse that can win the race.
What they should take from it is that when you have a
well-organized community—and a community
that’s well-organized both in an activist
perspective, outside of government, but also organized
within the Democratic Party, within government—you
create energy and attention that moves the community
forward. [Instead] of sitting around their towns or
neighborhoods or cities thinking, Who’s the
person? they need to think about how do we create this
structure.

As speaker, what would you like to accomplish for LGBT
New Yorkers?

My first goal is to continue to fight the
lawsuit against our equal-benefits law. That is one of
the most important things we can do in the council is
fight very, very hard to make sure we win that lawsuit.
And oddly enough, the argument before the court of appeals
was on January 4, the day I was sworn in. So I hope
that is a great message from the universe that
we’re going to be victorious in our efforts.

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