On the night of June 26, two days before the gay pride parade would overtake Manhattan in honor of the 40th birthday of the Stonewall riots that are popularly imagined as the birth of the gay rights movement, a group numbering a couple of dozen mostly gay men and women found themselves crammed into the parlor floor of the West Village townhouse of John Connor, a former banker who lives with his companion, the designer Steven Gambrel.
It raged and stormed outside, while inside, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the first openly gay person to win that office, thanked the group for coming.
They’d been summoned either because they had money or because they had influence in the “gay movement,” such as it is today, and the organizers of this affair needed their money and influence to stage a large national march for gay rights in Washington, D.C., this October.
The mood was intense, and hardly celebratory, despite the tremendous progress toward legalizing gay marriage in New York State that many of the attendees had been involved in.
“We want results,” Ms. Quinn said. “We want them now. We don’t want to be told any longer that we have to wait. ‘Cause look, in Albany? They said they couldn’t do marriage at the beginning of the session—that they had to get other business done first. And now it’s exploded in Albany. If they kept their promise from Day 1, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
As she spoke, Lance Bass, the now openly gay entertainer who was a member of the boy band N’Sync, sat on a couch directly to her right, throwing a small stuffed toy repeatedly to a black Labradoodle.
Dustin Lance Black, the square-jawed young Oscar winner who wrote the screenplay for Milk, leaned against the side of a fireplace with a glass of white wine, listening.
Cleve Jones, the longtime gay rights activist famous for coming up with a giant quilt made of panels sent in by the friends and families of people who have died or were suffering from AIDS (and who was played by Emile Hirsch in Milk), spoke next.
“This doesn’t come around that often, the Democrats have both houses!” he said, swinging his arms and twirling his neck in a way that made him nearly a dead ringer for Lewis Black. “We elected Barack Obama. Hello? The door is open. Some of it is due to hard work of people over a very, very long period of time. Some of it is due to coincidences and anniversaries. But the door has opened and it’s already swinging shut.”
I’ve got a Facebook that has something like 500,000 fans. —Lance Bass
In New York, where a provision to allow gay marriage looked likely to pass before it factored into the implosion of the Democratic-controlled State Senate, New York’s gay movement was getting some pretty great P.R. Few constituencies had the clout in Albany that organizations like the Empire State Pride Agenda had developed over years of working the halls of the Capitol to get a bill to extend the right to marry to gays and lesbians.
The issue attracted the Gill Action Fund, which, with the help of the Empire State Pride Agenda, gave $1 million to defeat weaker Republicans in local elections last year, as New York magazine recently reported. The catch, of course, was if the Democrats were victorious—which they were—they would get marriage.
The lobbying firm of Patricia Lynch, consistently one of the highest-grossing lobbyists in Albany and a former top aide to Sheldon Silver, got a $10,000-a-month contract to work on the issue.