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New York City Council Celebrates Pride

New York City Council Celebrates Pride

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The New York City Council hosted its annual LGBT Pride celebration Tuesday evening with special guests including Wendy Williams, Chely Wright, Audra McDonald, Lt. Dan Choi, and the family of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, the gay teenager brutally murdered in Puerto Rico last year. Presenters articulated a theme of "moving forward together" in light of a year marked by advances and disappointments.

"Rarely is a pride or protest march quick," said City Council speaker Christine Quinn in opening remarks to the celebration. "Rarely is it straight, no pun intended, and often along the way, you get diverted."

Quinn, who is a lesbian, listed achievements in the past year that included passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and progress toward repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on the federal level. She reserved especially harsh words for members of the New York state senate, which failed to pass a marriage equality bill last December despite widespread anticipation, and just last week allowed a long-awaited transgender rights bill to die in committee.

"I'm not going to pretend I'm not mad at those senators, and I'm not going to pretend that I don't want to hurt some of their political careers," she said. "And that's my right. And that's your right, too. But what we're not going to give them is the satisfaction of being so angry we don't keep moving forward."

The annual event this year honored Q-Wave, an organization for queer Asian and Pacific Islanders, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, and the family of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, who traveled from Puerto Rico in recognition of their late son. The teen was stabbed to death in November by convicted murderer Juan Jose Martinez Matos, who deposited his victim's decapitated and burned body along a remote roadside.

During the press conference moments before the event, Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force spoke for the teen's assembled family members, which included mother Myriam Mercado, father Jorge Lopez, Sr., and brother Gabriel Lopez Mercado.

"Out of hatred has come this love," said Serrano. "The unconditional love of a family that loved its son unconditionally. They're here to send a very powerful message that love will always conquer hate."

TV talk show host Williams, who emceed the event, thanked the LGBT community for its support at the press conference.

"I couldn't be where I am today in my career without the tremendous support of the gay and lesbian community, the transgender community, and my appreciation for your support," she said. "It's an honor to be here, so, 'How you doin'?'"

Wright, who along with McDonald performed at the celebration, offered realistic advice to aspiring young entertainers grappling with the question of their sexuality. Last month, the singer became the most high-profile country music star to date to come out.

"What I don't want to do is paint a picture of my coming out as being all daises and sunshine," said Wright, who acknowledged that she has received some hate mail since her announcement. "I'm focused on the positive and there have been a lot of positives, but it hasn't been all 100% positive. What I don't want to do is be reckless with a young person's dreams and suggest that every young person should run down the street in a rainbow flag, because not everyone is in a safe place."

"Come out when you feel safe, and make sure that you feel supported," she said.

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