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June 27, 2011

Christopher Guess: Stonewall Moment of Victory

Early Friday evening, photographer Christopher Guess was riding his bike on the Lower East Side in Manhattan when he ran into and followed a festive and spontaneous parade en route to the Stonewall Inn, where the modern gay rights movement began in 1969. The New York State Legislature was in session debating a bill that would legalize same-sex marriages, and with consensus on key provisions allowing more conservative religious institutions to opt out, passage of the landmark law appeared imminent.

In Sheridan Square, the sense of expectation was palpable. “EVERYONE was on their phones, checking Twitter for updates, myself included,” Christopher reported.

As noted in the New York Times, Republican State Senator Mark J. Grisanti of Buffalo had one of the deciding votes, having campaigned against gay marriage. But he changed his mind and voted YES, saying “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”  The law passed and the waiting crowd at Stonewall erupted into celebration that continued through the weekend.

From one perspective, Governor Andrew Cuomo needed to reassure and deliver to his progressive base after harsh budget cuts in response to the economic crisis. But much more importantly, this was a happy –and rare — occasion when the politics of civility and common sense transcended party lines and partisan rancor.

–Alan Chin


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