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Elected officials join forces to promote marriage equality

Legislators in Jackson Heights told their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender constituents as well as their allies Monday to vote for pro-marriage equality candidates in the Nov. 2 election.

“We are inches away of reaching that magical number 29,” said state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), referring to the number of votes needed in the Senate to pass a bill allowing people of the same sex to marry.

At the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, legislators and constituents discussed the best strategy to use to pass a pro-LGBT marriage bill in 2011, partly in response to the recent suicides by teenagers who were gay or perceived to be gay and the recent hate crimes against gay people in the city: an assault of a bartender at Julius Bar in Manhattan Oct. 11 and an attack on three gay men in the Bronx by nine attackers Oct. 3.

“If people are thinking of copycatting [these crimes], they know that’s not going to work, because the days of us not going to the police are over,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).

Elected officials at the event included Quinn, Peralta, Councilmen Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) and Assembly candidate Francisco Moya. Quinn, Dromm and Van Bramer are all openly gay.

“Like many of you, I would like to be married one day,” said Van Bramer, who has been with his partner for 11 1/2 years.

Dromm said a crucial win for allies of gay marriage would be to elect Tony Avella, a former Democratic councilman who is running in Bayside against Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose).

Peralta said electing Avella would mean the Senate would have a better chance of passing a marriage equality bill in 2011, now that George Onorato (D-Astoria) is retiring and former Sen. Hiram Monserrate, whose seat Peralta won, was ousted for a misdemeanor assault charge. Padavan, Onorato and Monserrate had voted against the legislation in 2009.

“Right now this is the moment for the LGBT community,” said Alexandra Rosa, chief of staff for Borough President Helen Marshall. Rosa’s child is gay.

Suzanne Ramos, board chairwoman of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays New York, was one of many community activists at the meeting who encouraged constituents to go to their representatives and tell them their stories of wanting to marry their partners.

“These things really tug´╗┐ at the heartstrings and we have to keep doing that,” Ramos said.

Many at the meeting agreed it was marriage the LGBT community needed, not domestic partnerships or civil unions. Cathy Moreno Thomas, board president of Marriage Equality New York, said there are 1,300 tangible rights LGBT people are denied that their straight, married neighbors receive.

“It’s not separate but equal,” Dromm said, “It’s about true equality.”

Dromm also said that members of the LGBT community should team up with immigrant communities and support issues pertaining to immigrants such as the Park51 mosque to fight against hate and prejudice.

“We have to work as a united front,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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