In late May, three days after Mark Carson, a gay man, was shot and killed just blocks from the Stonewall Inn, Christine Quinn joined hundreds of outraged New Yorkers for a rally against anti-gay violence. Quinn didn’t give a speech; she didn’t have to. Instead, surrounded by queer New Yorkers and allies, she joined activists and held the blue banner of the Anti-Violence Project, the LGBT nonprofit Quinn helmed from 1996–1999.
John Liu, city comptroller and fellow mayoral candidate, joined the rally as well but couldn’t compete with the implicit message that Quinn was the gay candidate. That week, as had been the case for most of the year, she was the candidate to beat, polling more than 10% ahead of Bill de Blasio, John Liu, Anthony Weiner, and Bill Thompson among likely Democratic voters.
And this lead was before June, Gay Pride month, the perfect opportunity for Quinn to tap into the enthusiasm driven by what would prove to be a historic breakthrough for LGBT rights. Edie Windsor, the 84-year-old New Yorker who brought down the Defense of Marriage Act, kissed Quinn on the cheek and publicly announced her endorsement of Quinn just hours after finding out she won her case.
“I want to make sure everyone knows that I am endorsing Chris with my whole heart. I think we have to make her the next mayor,” said Windsor during the city’s Pride parade the following week. A victory for Quinn would be another victory for the LGBT movement. At least, that was the idea. And given that New York City politics are notoriously all about identity politics, it presumably was a good idea.
But now that the polls have closed and the votes have been counted, it appears that Quinn didn’t just lose the primary: She lost the gay vote too. According the New York Times exit survey, 45% of LGBT New Yorkers voted for Bill de Blasio compared to 39% for Quinn.
The disappointing finish isn’t exactly a surprise. Those “Anybody But Quinn” signs certainly made an impression as did Bloomberg’s shadow over Quinn, which, ultimately, she just couldn’t outrun. And, those queer people who opposed Quinn made their opposition stark and clear.
“There’s a lesson here for New Yorkers, LGBT and otherwise: When securing the rights of citizens requires bucking the city’s power elite, Chris Quinn is not on your side,” wrote The Nation’s Richard Kim last week.
Simply being the LGBT candidate isn’t enough anymore. Quinn’s defeat shows that you no longer get to say, “I’m out, gay and this will be historic so you should vote for me.” LGBT voters are savvier than that. And despite the Quinn campaign’s attempts to connect her success to a broader sense of progress for LGBT Americans, her record on issues relevant to the LGBT community proved as troubling for many voters as her connection to Bloomberg.
The same June evening as Edie Windsor’s endorsement, Quinn, New York City Council Speaker, voted against the Community Safety Act’s ban on racial profiling. But racial profiling (specifically, the NYPD’s notorious “stop and frisk” policy) is a LGBT issue. According to the Anti-Violence Project which recently issued a report on “Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2012,” “40% of survivors interacting with the NYPD reported police misconduct. Reports of police misconduct increased significantly from 8 in 2011 to 78 in 2012.”
By voting against an end to stop-and-frisk, Quinn found herself directly opposed to the Anti-Violence Project and other organizations which she had marched with at the Mark Carson Rally earlier this summer. The ban passed in August without Quinn’s support. The same could be said for Quinn’s stance on living wages, paid work leave and measures related to gentrification in Manhattan. In New York, which arguably has one of the most diverse LGBT communities in the country, policies that impact the intersection of race, class and gender are just as important to LGBT voters as marriage equality, HIV/AIDS prevention and anti-bullying measures.