On June 26, 2000, First Lady of The United States of America Hillary Clinton joined the Gay Pride Parade in New York City. It was the first time a first lady ever marched in the parade.
I was there marching with the New York City mayor, having been invited by a state supreme court judge whose name escapes me now. At the time it was a thrilling event, even by my own high thrill standards.
In my younger years I’ve performed in front of huge crowds. Arenas, stadiums, you name it with, bands I played keyboards in, opening up for Queen, U2, INXS, The Allman Brothers, Tom Petty and many others.
I’ve heard the cheering roar of what a large crowd sounds like, but from what I can remember, I hadn’t heard anything like the cheering Mrs. Clinton received. It was a moment of validation for tens of thousands of people who felt marginalized by those at the top of the political field for most of our lives. Finally gays, lesbians, and their soul brothers and sisters were being recognized by a highly visible woman.
Many people took pictures with First Lady Hillary Clinton that day. I got to snap my own at the corner of 14th street and 5th avenue. Surrounded by Congressman Barney Frank, New York State Senator Tom Duane and Rudy Giuliani. It was thrilling for the LGBTQ community to be acknowledged by the White House.
I remember once in 1987 visiting the AIDS Memorial quilt displayed on the mall in Washington. The quilt was bigger than a football field, with mementos and tributes in memory of those whose lives were lost. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered—straight and gay mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters of every age, color, type, persuasion to honor their loved ones lost.
Quite the contrary as I marched in the same parade as Mrs. Clinton and we got to the front of The Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the gay civil rights movement. I realized I was part and party to a moment of United States history taking place. I really wanted to stop the whole parade and implore Mrs. Clinton to take photos, but I was possessed by that goosebump feeling that happens when the hairs on your arm stand up. From the top of my head to my feet I felt a lightning bolt of love strike my body. We marched past The Stonewall Inn uninterrupted.
This year on New York City gay pride day (June 25) I coincidentally ran into Tom Duane, the first openly gay New York State Senator who marched alongside Mrs. Clinton that day. What we both recalled with such clarity was the decibel level of cheering—how loudly everyone shouted Hillary’s name with joy. Mr. Duane was one of the chief architects of the marriage equality bill that grants same sex couples the right to marry in New York.
Minorities everywhere still have a long way to go. Hate and violence and prejudice are still a fight everyday on the front lines of equality. I consider however, Mrs. Clinton to be a personal hero. She joined the thousands of LGBTQ marchers and their straight friends for one reason alone—it was the right thing to do.