Honored at this year’s fundraiser was Target Cue Senior Vice President Cathy Renna, who has worked as an essential publicist and activist in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual (LGBT) community for 25 years.
“As somebody who’s mostly behind the scenes, usually I’m the one working with the reporters or helping my clients get their pictures taken with people,” Renna said. “It’s really thrilling to have people recognize the work. I try to help people tell their stories, because when people tell their stories, the public can relate to LGBT on a very different level. It’s more personal; it’s political, but it’s political with a small ‘p.’”
Presenting Renna’s award was her client and good friend Edie Windsor, whose case against the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
Windsor, whose love affair with her late partner Thea Spyer inspired a 2009 documentary film directed by Susan Muska and Gréta Olafsdóttir, said when the government denied her the right to tend to her partner’s estate, she felt it very strongly.
“I felt real anguish that my country that wouldn’t recognize her as my spouse and they treated her as a stranger,” Windsor said. “In the beginning, when I first saw the brief that said Edie Windsor v. the United States, I was terrified for a moment, and then once I got over that I realized, they’re not going to hurt me. As we moved on, it got surer. The decision was so beautiful.”
While the parade is now a massive production, when Councilman Daniel Dromm first founded the event, it was fairly small with little support from the political establishment in New York City.
But after 21 years, there is now an overwhelming amount of support for the cause, said Queens Pride Committee Chair Andrew Ronan.
“This event itself, when it started I’m told, you couldn’t even get an elected official to attend. Now so many attend we can’t even let them all speak, it’s that many,” Ronan said. “It goes from a little social action to a movement to a parade.”
Among the attendees Saturday night were several notable figures in the same-sex marriage movement, including New York Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, whose decision in Hernandez v. Robles was the third to address marriage equality in the history of the legal system in the U.S.
“If you look at the arc of history, there was a time when marriage between races was barred, and I saw a similarity,” Ling-Cohan said. “That parallel was also was drawn by the plaintiffs.”
Comptroller Scott Stringer felt that events and celebrations like the Queens Pride Parade are essential to maintaining the atmosphere of acceptance and diversity in the five boroughs.
“Part of honoring the honorees tonight is presenting a New York that is inclusive,” Stringer said. “We want to bring our brand to the rest of the country.”
Chris Pilgrim, a 50-year-old Jamaica, Queens, resident who came out publicly last year, had a very different experience than would’ve been common15 years ago when the Queens Pride Parade was in its infancy.
“I can honestly say that it’s like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Pilgrim said. “I can be who I am now, and I like that very much.”
Ronan, for one, said he is thankful to be part of an event that is so central to the equal rights movement, and to have the privilege of living in a city where harassment and condemnations of homosexuality are all but a thing of the past.
“We’re lucky we live in New York,” Ronan said. “I feel really bad for people who live in parts of the United States where it’s going to be a long uphill battle. We’ve made these great successful victories, the fight is really still going on.”