A beautiful day Upstate, and almost a victory… | East Villager & Lower East Sider

A beautiful day Upstate, and almost a victory…

BY TIM GAY  |  There we were, on June 14, a beautiful early summer afternoon, drinks in hand, small-talking and air-kissing on the manicured meadow rolling away from the great stone barn at Grasmere in Rhinebeck.

This magnificent estate was built by Janet Livingston Montgomery, just after her husband, General Richard Montgomery, died in the Revolutionary War.

The lady built it on her land, hundreds of acres, bequeathed by her grandfather, Colonel Henry Beekman.  The colonel’s father, William Beekman, was one of the earliest immigrants in North America, sailing to New Amsterdam in 1647.  

Janet Livingston Montgomery’s brother, Robert Livingston, was part of the “Committee of Five,” including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence. Robert Livingston later administered the oath of office to President George Washington. 

The estate has roots in our history and heritage. It was also here that Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky held their wedding rehearsal dinner on July 30, 2010.

Looking around, I was part of a gathering of definitely established, stylish and well-to-do women and men, professionals and artists, musicians and writers, perhaps a politician or two. But we were much more colorful than our parents and siblings would be at the country club cocktail reception.

We were there for the Empire State Pride Agenda’s “Hudson Affair,” and we were raising money to continue the cause for the passage of progressive equal-rights legislation for all the L.G.B.T. communities in New York State.

And I thought to myself, “Wow! It wasn’t that long ago we had a hard time even booking a dining room in a Chinese restaurant. And here we are, at one of the most historical places of our nation.”

We were on the eve of two victories — passage of GENDA (the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act) and of the legislation to rid the state of “gay conversion therapy” practices — and both were shockingly killed by the New York State Senate on the last day of the legislative season.

Here in the Hudson Valley, we have a great congressmember, Sean Patrick Maloney, who has brought home federal dollars to help our Sandy-related damages, and to boost our local industry. And we have Sean Eldridge, a strong, youthful entrepreneur who helped a lot of our local-origination food companies become strong regional businesses.

That both men are gay and both are married is almost beside the point. (Sean Patrick Maloney and his long-term partner Randy Fiorke just got married.) They are both leaders and public servants in the best of U.S. tradition.

It was only 11 years ago that the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) became law in New York State. And that took way too long. Next year, we’ll be there again for GENDA and to protect our our young from cruel mental torture.

And we’ll be there slowly and forcefully hammering away at those small-minded state senators who are afraid of transgender empowerment, and opposed to protecting the young and the change that is inevitable. 

I’m a lucky older gay man, fortunate to be alive today, out in society, and seeing what was unimaginable. And the best thing is that we don’t have to be in a dark back dining room anymore.

A longtime gay activist, Gay lived in Chelsea from 1980 until this year, and now lives in the Sundown Wild Forest section of Catskill Park. Formerly Manhattan deputy chief clerk of the New York City Board of Elections, he is currently the deputy commissioner for the Ulster County Board of Elections.