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Christine Quinn

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.

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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