Following President Obama’s public voicing of support of same-sex marriage on May 9, Queens community members stepped out in agreement.
“He has given our community a sense of validity,” an openly gay Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said.
In response to the president’s statement Dromm and other community members signed a letter of thanks. The councilman also donated, in conjunction with the Lesbian Gay Democratic Club of Queens, 25 copies of “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” to the Queens Library, about churches in schools. Dromm also sponsored a forum on the issue of churches in schools at the Jackson Heights Library on May 12.
The western Queens community of Jackson Heights, where Dromm’s office is located, is the second biggest gay community in New York City.
“We have a very large gay population in Jackson Heights, and between 100,000 and 200,000 live in the borough alone — a good chunk that cannot be overlooked,” he said.
Jackson Heights will hold the 20th Gay Pride Parade on June 3. The first Queens Pride march was held in June 1993, and since that time, the parade and festival have attracted about 40,000 spectators. It’s the second largest pride celebration in the New York metropolitan area.
Support for the president’s position also came from the other side of the borough, where gay rights has not been as big of an issue.
“He did the right thing. I’m glad he’s on board,” said the Rev. Charles Norris of Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica.
Many say the president’s statement is consistent with changing times. During the last few years the attitude about same-sex marriage has shifted to one of acceptance, according to Dan Hendrick, spokesman for the New York League of Conservation Voters and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s (D-Sunnyside) fiance.
“As Dan and I make preparations for our own wedding in July, I am moved by President Obama’s declaration of support for marriage equality,” said Van Bramer.
“It’s not cool to be anti-gay any more,” said Hendrick, who was kicked out of the Navy in 1992 for revealing his homosexuality.
“It’s fantastic the president has gone further than any other president. He’s really breaking ground,” said Hendrick.
President Obama has supported lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights before, with his lifting of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy. However, when he ran for office in 2008, he supported legal unions, but not marriages between same sex couples.
New York State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) also changed her mind recently to being in favor of marriage equality.
“I know a few clergy members in Queens may not be thrilled, but you can’t stop progress,” Norris said. “Unfortunately, it’s the type of progress us Christians aren’t very happy with, but it’s an evolution that we have to learn to work with and deal with.”
The state legalized same-sex marriage on July 24, 2011. Many states have taken the opposite stance. North Carolina became the 30th state on May 8 to include a ban on same-sex marriages in its state constitution.