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Kimmel Center, New York City
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
April 6, 2009   photo-album Bookmark and Share

In an expansive ballroom high above Washington Square, one could follow city lights up Fifth Avenue, toward the Chrysler and the Empire buildings resplendent amidst the dazzling Manhattan nightscape.  This was a heady view for heady company.  This was a roomful of the city’s well-heeled and well-connected (New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey, Lucy Liu, Mark Nelson, Hal Rubenstein, Steve Weinstein, John Bartlett, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom), turning it out for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force New York Leadership Awards—and if there was more buzz than is customary for this annual presentation, it might have had to do with this year’s award recipients: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, as well as menswear fashion designer, John Bartlett.

During a year when all of us in the LGBT community have felt the earth begin to shift, the choice of Newsom was particularly astute, for as Newsom’s presenter, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn reminded us, and him, we will always hold dear those images of loving California couples on the steps of San Francisco City Hall.  For it was Newsom who started the California marriage ball rolling on Valentine’s Day 2004, and now five years later, as Newsom assured us, “As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.”  Much has happened in those five years, and not all of it easy for the LGBT community to swallow, but onward we’ve pressed, thanks to the leadership of the Task Force and its mission of equality for all.  For as Executive Director Rea (that would be pronounced “ray” as in “ray of light”) Carey stated, equality is “the floor from which we build.”

With a Nero-like spread of delectables and a Bacardi-sponsored bar, as well as the bewitching screen siren Lucy Liu presenting Bartlett’s award, the evening was an impassioned mix of glamour and inspiration.  In receiving his award, Newsom declared, “In honor of your devotion, in honor of your love, I am here,” and Bartlett ditched his own speech in order to better speak from the heart about his concern for LGBT seniors and our LGBT brothers and sisters in foreign lands without even a portion of our freedoms.  And then there was the Task Force field worker who spoke about the fight for equality in Maine and the 17-year old straight boy she’d met who looked her in the eye and said, “You should have taken care of this before I was born.”  Well, yes, young man, that’s probably true, but since we didn’t, now you and your generation can help in this fight for equality and freedom for all.  For as Newsom remarked, “[This moment] is remarkably different from even five months ago…”  Indeed, it is: you can feel the earth moving, shifting, as we speak.  It’s the sound of freedom marching…

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