Christine Quinn Reflects on Progress at Democratic Convention

The lesbian Speaker of the New York City Council offered her thoughts on the experience for LGBT delegates in Charlotte, and responded to chatter about her own political future.

BY Julie Bolcer

September 06 2012 11:25 AM ET

Polling may indicate an enthusiasm gap among some Democrats this election season, but a listener cannot detect an ounce of doubt in the voice of Christine Quinn. The New York City Council Speaker talked with The Advocate from the national convention in Charlotte, N.C., where she said the energy, especially LGBT attendees, eclipses anything in memory.

“Oh my God, I think the atmosphere here is just the most electric and exciting for LGBT issues I’ve ever seen,” she said Wednesday. She rattled off milestones including the “biggest group of LGBT delegates ever,” a President with “the most significant, substantive, delivered record we’ve ever had,” and a party platform she called “the best our community has ever, ever had.”

One of the most powerful openly gay elected officials in the country, Quinn at times sounded as giddy as any other delegate at the record-breaking convention. More than 530 openly LGBT participants attended this year, a 50% increase since the 2008 convention in Denver, according to the National Stonewall Democrats.

Many other monumental shifts have taken place in the past four years. Last year, New York became the seventh and largest jurisdiction with a marriage equality law, an achievement celebrated Wednesday at the state delegation breakfast. This year, Tammy Baldwin is mounting a competitive bid to become the first openly gay U.S. Senator, and Quinn introduced the Wisconsin congresswoman at a convention luncheon hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and the Victory Fund. First Lady Michelle Obama headlined the event the day after a primetime speech in which she recognized “proud Americans” who can “boldly stand at the altar with who they love.”

Quinn contrasted the landscape to as recently as a decade ago, when the Manhattan political club, Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, had to plead with its endorsed candidates to use the group’s full name in their campaign literature. The club is also known as GLID.

“In the 90s and the early 2000s, we were asking people, ‘Would you write ‘gay and lesbian?’ Here we have the First Lady of the United States imploring the LGBT delegates and leaders to fan out across the country and help re-elect the President. Just think about how in a very short period of time, things have changed,” she said.

Since 2008, the Speaker’s political profile has also ascended to the point where polls name her the overwhelming early frontrunner in the 2013 mayoral contest, and she leads the crop of potential Democratic candidates in fundraising. Although her candidacy is undeclared, the prospect of the Big Apple’s first openly gay and female mayor seems to be generating buzz in Charlotte. Attendees have tweeted photos of themselves with Quinn captioned “the next mayor of New York City,” and when she appeared in a segment with Chris Matthews this week, he introduced her as “running” for mayor. The Speaker raised her eyebrows in apparent surprise at his bluntness, but she did not deny the claim.

“A boy can hope, I guess,” she said about the MSNBC host. “There’s time for 2013 in 2013. This is about 2012 and the urgency of this election.”

The past four years have included setbacks, most recently the passage of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions in North Carolina, the convention’s host state. Quinn said the development had not dampened the outlook at the convention, calling the mood “over-the-top fun, jubilant, excited.” Amendment 1 passed in May the day before President Obama announced his personal support for marriage equality.

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