Other speakers at the Pride Agenda dinner included U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn introduced Schumer, who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 but announced his support for marriage equality in 2009, saying, “It’s time.” She credited the influential lawmaker with removing “any belief that being for marriage equality was politically a bad decision” and for establishing that marriage equality is a “core middle class value.”
Schumer in turn praised Quinn, an out lesbian and leading mayoral prospect for 2013, as someone who can appeal to New Yorkers beyond her liberal district on the West Side of Manhattan. His comments received strong applause from the largely LGBT audience estimated to total around 1,000 guests.
“Christine Quinn is an amazing leader. She’s done a great job in the Council, and the best for her is yet to come,” he said.
Schumer mentioned his work to increase the presence of openly LGBT judges on the federal bench, where he recommended J. Paul Oetken and Alison Nathan, both of whom were nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate. Another of his recommendations, Pamela Ki Mai Chen, awaits confirmation.
A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that advanced legislation to repeal DOMA last year, Schumer said he hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would strike down the law in the coming year.
“It’s not only the right side of history,” he said. “It’s the correct interpretation of the United States Constitution.”
The audience also heard from Nathan Schaefer, incoming executive director of the Pride Agenda and former director of public policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He said the organization's near-term priorities included passage of the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act, the long delayed transgender rights legislation.
“And let us be clear the immediate journey will lead to full protection from discrimination for everyone, especially transgender New Yorkers, statewide,” he said.