A Seat at the Table: LGBTQIA Representation in New York Politics examines the personal lives and political experiences of New York City LGBTQIA elected officials in the City Council and State Legislature from the 1990s to the present.
The passage of the Gay Rights Bill in City Council in 1986 and the formation of the activist organizations ACT UP in 1987 and Queer Nation in 1990 facilitated the election of several LGBTQIA community organizers into political office, including Deborah Glick in the State Assembly in 1990, Thomas Duane in City Council in 1991, and Margarita Lopez in City Council in 1997.
As the city’s queer population became increasingly organized, other LGBTQIA individuals won elections in the 2000s and beyond. Though they focused on multiple issues to address the needs of their constituents, they aimed in particular to advance the rights of New York’s LGBTQIA community through education, legislation, and advocacy.
Some legislative accomplishments in the state include the passage of the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) in 2002, the Marriage Equality Act in 2011, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in 2019.
A Seat at the Table provides intimate glimpses of these elected officials through oral history, video, and photography.
It chronicles their personal challenges and struggles as well as their triumphs and achievements.
Some topics include coming out, family relationships, and intersectional identity.
The exhibit illuminates their grassroots level work, their entry into electoral politics, and their mentor relationships. Above all, A Seat at the Table explores the connection between their queer identities and political involvements.
These elected officials helped transform New York politics by expanding civil rights, regulating the workplace, challenging traditional cultural norms, and funding social and educational organizations and institutions.
They all shared faith in the value of civic engagement and understood that political representation was necessary to foster change.
As former City Councilman and State Senator Thomas Duane observed, “There’s no substitute for a seat at the table.”