Christine Marinoni on preserving the gains made by the LGBT community
Christine Marinoni is the senior adviser for community partnerships reporting to New York City Deputy Mayor Richard Buery. She is also an activist, known for her work related to education and LGBT issues. She and her wife, actress Cynthia Nixon, are also supporters of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and often joined him on the campaign trail in 2013. In an interview with City & State’s Grace Segers, Marinoni discussed her advocacy work, her support of the mayor and her hopes for the future. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
C&S: How did you first get involved with advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community?
CM: My history is a little self-interested. In 1995, shortly after I came out, I opened a lesbian coffee shop/bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn. A couple years into the coffee shop, one of our bartenders was a victim of a hate crime leaving the premises. We organized some events to bring attention to it, and call for more police attention and protection for the community. Then the Matthew Shepard killing happened and we were also the same folks who had organized the marches in Park Slope, and were kind of the key organizers for some of the work that happened then. Later, when I had been dating my now-wife for many years, I wanted to be able to marry her. So she and I did some lobbying in New York state and we went up a few times to Albany and met with legislators and talked to them about passage of gay marriage in New York City.
C&S: Is there an intersection between your independent advocacy work and your work for the city?
CM: As an LGBTQ person, I've always been focused on issues across the board. I think it's important for the LGBT community to be joining hands with other groups and issues like income inequality and education. Within this administration, I don't work on LGBTQ issues, but I also like working for an administration which has really been so on the forefront of addressing issues in the LGBTQ community.
C&S: You were very active in the mayoral election in 2013. Do you expect to be similarly involved in de Blasio’s campaign this year as well?
CM: When I was doing that, I was not working at the time. I had taken a break to be a stay-at-home mom, so I basically worked around the clock as a volunteer. So I won't be able to take as active a role and obviously I can't do anything during my city work hours. But yes, I plan to fully support the mayor. I won't be able to do it in the way I did last time. I'll have to do it around work hours and in the way the law allows me.
C&S: Are there any initiatives regarding LGBT issues that you believe the mayor’s office should be pursuing more aggressively?
CM: I feel like he's really accomplished quite a bit in that arena. I think the mayor, like any elected official, always needs to keep an open ear to let the community explain issues that get raised. I just think there are so many good things he's done for the LGBT community. I'm sure there's more things that he can and should be doing, but I think he's done a great job.
C&S: You’ve been advocating on behalf of the LGBT community for decades. How have you seen society’s perception of LGBT people and issues change?
CM: I think it's gotten way better. Obviously we’re in a potentially scary, ugly moment. But I do think that moment demonstrates how far we’ve gone. You make a lot of gains, and then there's a big backlash. So, I think we've come a really long way. Marriage being passed across the board – I couldn't have even remotely imagined that 20 years ago, even the idea of civil unions was very kind of shaky. Then all of a sudden it was like a domino effect. I think it was really a watershed moment when I think the tide started turning around LGBTQ issues in terms of the way people thought about LGBTQ people. I think there’s a lot of work to be done on behalf of trans folks because they're facing some of the same issues that we've been able to overcome on some level. I think we’ve come a really long way; I think we also have a far way to go. We’re going to have to wade through the current backlash to make sure we don't lose some of what we’ve gained.