Deborah Glick (D)
Born December 24, 1950
Assembly member, District 66
New York City, New York
Elected November 1990
Re-elected 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002. 2004, 2006
In 1986, Deborah Glick was elected the first woman president of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats and in 1999 she became the first openly lesbian or gay member of the State Legislature.
Interview with Deborah Glick for Out and Elected in the USA
Q: What do you like best with politics and what drives you crazy?
A: There are probably two things I like best. One is the reward that comes from knowing that somewhere along the line, your desire to make things better for future generations becomes real. There have been changes in the level of support that lesbian and gay people get in this legislature. That is not strictly owing to my being here, but it’s an element of it. And then there are young people who come in to lobby at different times, and they are not lobbying on gay and lesbian stuff. They come in, they’re working in other fields, and when everybody is shaking hands and the lobby visit is over they say, “and I just want to say on a personal note that you’ve been a role model.” That kind of thing – it makes it all worthwhile. The other thing is that I’m obviously a personality type where I’m very opinionated and I want to be in the mix. The first point is the more lofty and emotionally rewarding aspect and the other is that I really like working within the political process and fighting on a range of issues, many of which have nothing particularly to do with lesbian and gay concerns – the environment, health issues, reproductive rights.
The things that drive me crazy are that there are so many issues that thirty years later, I’m still fighting for. Like the basic right of a woman to control her own body. And that there are the three steps forward, two steps back that occur in every area and that common sense does not seem to always prevail and having the best, most rational argument is not a guarantee of success. That’s the kind of things that drives me crazy.
Q: How do you manage all the demands of the job on a personal level – booked with meetings set every 15 minutes, then committee meetings and all the rest – how do you deal with it?
A: Some days better than others (chuckling). The day-to-day part of having a lot of sensory input on a lot of different issues is exciting and energizing at the same time that it is occasionally overwhelming. The personal part that’s hard is that I spend three or four days a week in a town different from my partner. And that when we are in the same city, a lot of those demands intrude also. There really is no being away from it unless you go away away. Like to the other side of the country. Just going away for the weekend somewhere in any of the New York spots – out to Fire Island or going to the North Fork you run into people and people view it as an opportunity. It is hard to maintain a separate personal life if you are a public person.
Q: What general reflections do you have on you experiences in public office?
A: One thing that makes me sad in some ways is when I see people in any community that has suffered discrimination and has faced the kinds of isolating hardships that have existed and still exist for many people in the gay community, it makes me sad that some of the people in our community don’t recognize the struggles that still exist for young people, for people of color, for people who live in other parts of the state, smaller communities where conservative influences are powerful. And also to some extent hearing gay men dismiss issues of reproductive rights, saying, “that is not our concern, that is not our issue,” when I feel very deeply that the right to control your body is, at its very heart, the lesbian and gay struggle. It could be if one expands one’s mind a little bit, that there is a parallel between what is said to women, particularly young women, “If you have sex of which we don’t approve” – premarital sex, whatever – “and you suffer an unintended consequence” – i.e. an unwanted pregnancy – “you have to suffer the consequences. Too bad,” and what was said to the gay community for a very long time, “You’re having sex of which we don’t approve. And if there is an unintended consequence of that then that is your fault.” So, the commonality is there, and yet so many people are now distant from it. And I see it among young women who take abortion rights for granted because they didn’t live when it was illegal. The same is true for some segment of the gay community. Either because they are well-to-do, or they live in an urban center where there is relatively reasonable support, they are distant and removed from the experience of others. That’s a part of continuing to work.
I’m a Democrat and yes, the Democratic Party has done much more for gay people than Republicans although God knows there have been many failures, the Republican Party that exists now is not the one that existed when I was growing up. What has been around from Ronald Regan and has imbued our politics since then is an attitude of “Hurray for me and to hell with you” kind of attitude. “And if I’m doing OK and if I have enough money to go on my vacations, I’m insulated.” For me, as a Jew, I am reminded of the insulation and the arrogance of the assimilated German Jews who felt they could not be hurt. It is in little ways with little laws that restrict and limit who were are and who we can be and what we can do that we are all damaged.
For information on a touring exhibit version of Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004, contact Ron Schlittler at firstname.lastname@example.org.