The day after President Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage on national television, members of the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community took to the streets to thank him for his support.
The president publicly endorsed gay marriage to ABC’s Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” in the White House’s Cabinet Room on Wednesday, May 2.
Councilman Daniel Dromm held a rally with fellow community members in front of the Jackson Heights Post Office on 37th Avenue and 78th Street in Queens, where attendees could sign a giant-sized post card bearing the message “thank you” that was addressed to Obama.
“We are here to celebrate and to say ‘thank you, Mr. President’ because today we are happy to be gay and to be American,” Dromm said. “What you heard from the president has proved that America is a place that believes in true equality for all of its citizens.”
Dromm said that when he came out at 17 in 1973, homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder.
He noted that Julio Rivera, a gay Queens man, was murdered on the same corner near the Post Office in 1990 by three white supremacists who were out hunting a vulnerable person to kill.
At a nearby corner, restaurant-owner Edgar Garzon was killed in 2001 by two men while walking home from a Jackson Heights gay bar.
“This movement has not been without its tragedies, these things have happened in our path, in our battle to move forward in our fight for equality,” Dromm said.
“Much work remains to be done,” he added, but “never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that we would have a president of the United States coming out to support full equal rights, marriage rights, for all Americans.”
Obama made the announcement a few weeks before the 20th anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade, on 37th Avenue, and Festival, on 37th Road and 75th Avenue, to be held on Sunday, June 3.
Astoria resident Brendan Fay, of the Civil Marriage Trail Project, also spoke at the rally, saying that Obama’s announcement was particularly uplifting for LGBT young people, who are often bullied in school and other places.
Fay, a filmmaker, immigrated to the United States in 1984 and married his partner on July 27, 2003, in Toronto.
“We were all so uplifted by the words, by the ringing endorsement of marriage equality by President Obama, which by the way not only echoed across this land and in every home and in every street, but across the world,” Fay said.
“I hope as we celebrate the message from the president,” he added, “the message that marriage equality is for everybody, I hope that it translated too into policy and that we will see an end to laws that discriminate against LGBT immigrants.”
The excitement over Obama’s words spread through Brooklyn, too.
Matthew McMorrow, co-president of LAMBDA Brooklyn Independent Democrats, known as the voice of the borough’s LGBT community, said it was brave of the president to pick a side in a controversial issue while running for re-election.
However, many states still ban gay marriage, including North Carolina which recently also made civil unions illegal.
“But when the president of the United States, one of the most powerful people in the world, stands up and says that he supports marriage equality, it sends a very strong message to the lesbian and gay kids across the country who dream about falling in love one day and getting married to the person they love,” McMorrow said. “The most powerful man in the world is in their corner and supports that dream.”