Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) filled up a large room with gay activists at New York's LGBT Community Center yesterday for a 45-minute town hall meeting that touched on many issues important to the community. Questions ranged from gay persecution in Iraq to repealing "Don't ask, don't tell." Although she has been a vocal supporter of LGBT rights since her January appointment, this was the first time she faced an entirely gay audience for open questions. She did quite well.
An early question focused on her positive change of heart on gay marriage, but Gillibrand argued that she has always been "100 percent in favor of gay rights" and her gay congressional voting record is spotless. HRC actually gave her an 80 percent rating, but her current commitment seems passionate and real.
Gillibrand was very optimistic about what could be accomplished legislatively over the next year. She hopes to include gay couples in comprehensive immigration reform, which she believes could be voted on by March. She spoke of a "clear strategy" to end "Don't ask, don't tell" and pass an inclusive Employee Non-Discrimination Act. All great things, none very easy.
Over the last several months I've worried that Gillibrand was using gay issues primarily to excite the left and ward off a primary challenge. But that primary isn't a concern anymore. New York Democrats' main concern is recent polls showing Gillibrand trailing Republicans Giuliani and Pataki in general-election match-ups.
It's time for New Yorkers to rally around their new senator, regardless of their feelings on lame-duck Paterson. Gillibrand seems ready to provide us with progressive leadership. She has quickly engaged herself in important issues in the Senate, and the last thing we need is some regressive like Pataki taking the seat because voters didn't feel confident in Kirsten.
Originally posted on The Hill. Photo taken on my iPhone.
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