New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, September 20, 2012 (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A few hours after the Supreme Court released its decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, a jubiliant throng gathered outside the Stonewall Inn. There, New York City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn was in her element: the bar is in her district, and Quinn is the first openly gay person (and the first woman) to hold the speakership, making her one of the most powerful lesbian politicians in the country. When the DOMA case’s plaintiff, 84-year-old New Yorker Edie Windsor, took the podium, she used the occasion to endorse Quinn for mayor. Although Windsor didn’t give her reasons then, the symbolism was clear: a victory by Quinn would be another breakthrough in the long struggle for gay rights.
Later that night, Quinn returned to City Hall, where a vote was scheduled on two provisions of the Community Safety Act, one of which would create an enforceable ban on police profiling. The bill has been commonly misunderstood as a ban on racial profiling, but in fact the city already prohibits that. The current law, signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2004, is so toothless, however, that the NYPD has since conducted almost 3.6 million stop-and-frisks of blacks and Latinos (83 percent of all cases) without running afoul of its terms. The new bill would add bite to the ban by allowing victims to file suit against the NYPD in state court. It also adds sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, among other terms, to the list of protected categories.
For these reasons, a coalition of advocacy groups, including many of the city’s LGBT organizations, waged a tireless campaign on its behalf. Among them was the Anti-Violence Project—a grassroots gay community organization led from 1996 to 1999 by up-and-coming lesbian activist Christine Quinn. Last year, the group reported an astounding tenfold increase in police misconduct against LGBT New Yorkers; one of the chief virtues of the profiling bill is that it would allow groups like the AVP to sue using such statistical evidence rather than having to prove individual instances of intentional discrimination. The City Council debate on the measure dragged on past midnight, then passed. The Council overrode Mayor Bloomberg’s expected veto on August 22, when the AVP and other anti-profiling groups could finally celebrate their hard-fought victory. They had many allies to thank on the City Council—but the speaker, the AVP’s own former leader, was not among them. Quinn had voted against the ban, before and after the mayor’s veto, citing concerns that it would “take control of police policy away from the mayor and commissioner.”