Former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Calamus Foundation Founder Louis A. Bradbury were honored at the Empire State Pride Agenda’s annual Fall Dinner at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel on Thursday evening.
Every year, the Pride Agenda’s Fall Dinner brings together more than 1,100 supporters to celebrate and honor the LGBT community in New York State. The dinner celebrates LGBT leaders, straight allies, electoral officials and decision-makers who have contributed to the LGBT rights movement.
American comedian and actor Billy Eichner, star, creator and executive producer of Fuse TV comedy game show “Billy on the Street,” served as the dinner’s host. Elected officials present included State Senator Chuck Schumer; Congressman Jerry Nadler; Alphonso B. David, Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights for New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; State Senator Gustavo River; and Deborah J. Glick, The first openly LGBT member of the New York Legislature.
Founded in 1990, the Empire State Pride Agenda is New York State’s statewide LGBT civil rights and advocacy group whose goal is to achieve equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers as well as their families. The Pride Agenda consists of two separate organizations: the Empire State Pride Agenda, Inc., and the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation. The organization hosts a number of events in addition to the Fall Dinner, including Winter Heat, Equality & Justice Day, the Spring Dinner and the Hamptons Tea Dance.
The group’s achievements include pushing New York State agencies to ask if their clients are LGBT; changes to the policy for how transgender New Yorkers can correct their birth certificates; securing the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act next year vis-à-vis Governor Cuomo; the lifting of the profile of the Child Parent Security Act to fit surrogacy and second parent adoption law in New York; the passage of legislation in the Assembly banning conversion therapy; and a domestic partnership registry, along with benefits.
Honorees Christine Quinn and Louis A. Bradbury each received the Douglas W. Jones Leadership Award.
Quinn is the New York City Council’s first openly LGBT Speaker. As the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, she worked closely with the New York City Police Department against hate crimes. She also secured funding for HIV and AIDS services as chair of the New York City Council Health Committee and spearheaded victories such as dignity and protections against bullying and New York’s gay marriage victory in 2011 during her tenure as Council Speaker.
Quinn lauded the Pride Agenda and the work that numerous LGBT leaders, allies and elected officials have accomplished, but stressed that challenges remain that need to be resolved.
“I worry when I see states like North Carolina making such progress in matters and people still being able to be fired or evicted,” she said. “I worry when I think we might wake up the day after Election Day and not have a pro gay pro women’s equality pro transgender right State Senate in New York.”
As president of the Calamus Foundation, Bradbury has overseen the funding of key initiatives by LGBT groups such as Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, the LGBT Community Center and the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.
While serving as president of the board of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, he played a role in the passage of the Dignity for All Students Act and Marriage Equality Act and increased funding for LGBT health and human services needs and LGBT homeless and runaway youth.
Bradbury, who is the former partner of the late Douglas W. Jones, said that the Calamus Foundation has been able to grant nearly $20 million since Shelly Kaplan their founder and funder passed away more than 10 years ago.
He acknowledged Governor Cuomo’s role in bringing about marriage equality in New York State, the United States v. Windsor case’s overthrow of the Defense of Marriage Act and hailed the Pride Agenda as “an essential sentinel in New York State to continue to protect the rights we have won and that continues to advocate for those that have yet to be won.”
Schaefer agreed, noting that although significant strides have been made, a number of obstacles remain. Surrogacy is illegal in New York State, and transgender individuals still face a severe lack of access to care, including medical professionals who treat them with dignity and respect.
“The Pride Agenda is committed to the idea that equality is an unstoppable force in New York, in America and across the globe,” Schaefer said. “Our vision and our victories are tremendous and so are the life and death obstacles we still face.”