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Celebrating Pride Parade

City Councilmen Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) are still riding high months after their historic election as the first two openly gay men to serve Queens on the Council, but this week they will be riding even higher.

The pioneering duo will be riding floats as grand marshals of the Queens Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade, an honor bestowed by the borough Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee.

The Queens gay pride celebration starts at 11:30 a.m. Sunday with a multicultural festival on 37th Road between 74th and 77th streets. The parade begins at noon and runs along 37th Avenue between 75th and 85th streets.

“Queens used to be a community divided by intolerance, hate crimes and a homophobic school board president,” said Matt Hinojosa, media chairman for the Queens Gay Pride Parade. “After all these years, we now see a community of integration, justice and what better way than to see the election of two of our openly gay councilmen? Over the years you see that there has been a change in how big the visibility of the gay community is. So this is the reason why we selected them as our grand marshals this year.”

In addition to representing the needs and views of their various constituents to the city, Dromm and Van Bramer continue to embrace the pioneer moniker rather than sweeping it under the rug after winning their races.

They also have been using their positions as a platform to champion gay rights, evidenced by their comments at a recent news conference about being grand marshals.

“Lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people are your family, your friends and your neighbors, but this year for the first time they are your councilmen,” Dromm said. “I think that’s what is different about this year’s parade.”

Being outed or coming out publicly as a homosexual for many politicians over the years has been a political death trap, but Van Bramer said he thinks that is changing — even in the face of a devastating December defeat of a state Assembly bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

“The folks you’re talking about are fewer and fewer all the time,” he said about homophobic people who do not support openly gay public officials. “I think most people are open-minded folks who want good, hardworking, ethical elected officials. I think we just have to move elected officials to those places.”

As for one day getting gay marriage legalized and subsequently gaining equal rights for the LGBT community, Dromm said changing people’s minds about gay rights depends on more gay people coming out of the closet to their loved ones and the public.

“This whole issue of visibility and coming out is going to attract people to our cause,” he said. “It’s very hard to discriminate against people you know personally, your friends, your family, your neighbors .... One of the main purposes of the pride parade is to shed light on this issue.”

Dromm said there are at least 1,300 rights heterosexual married people have that gay people do not have.

“We certainly want to act as advocates,” he said. “We need legislators to know when they vote against marriage equality, it’s something very personal to me. We are talking about basic civil rights.”

The last attempt to pass a pro-gay marriage bill was defeated in December by the state Senate after being passed in May by the Assembly.

Kelly Simon, legislative director for Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach), said the issue is not likely to be raised again until 2011, after a new session of the Senate is elected and takes office.

She said Pheffer supports the bill.

“It’s on our calendar but won’t be brought up until something changes in the Senate, [rather than] bring up a one-house bill that will continue to be defeated,” she said.

Reach Reporter Chauncey Alcorn by e-mail at calcorn@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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