Equality

David Paterson’s Finest Moment: At A Gay Suicide Vigil

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We have gone to many, many, many LGBT rallies in the past year. Sometimes, it can be disheartening. Last night’s “You Are Loved” vigil in Washington Square Park was certainly the most sad, but also, the most touching.

The event was organized by gay and lesbian students at NYU on behalf of gay kids who have been bullied and committed suicide. Signs were held up of the six most recent known cases: 13-year-olds Asher Brown and Seth Walsh,15-year-olds Billy Lucas and Justin Aaberg, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, and 19-year-old Raymond Chase. (Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate broadcast a sexual experience of his, was also remembered at a vigil at the same time at
Rutgers
.)

The NYU students promoted the event as a low key, somewhat spontaneous affair that was an immediate response prior to a much more formal event which will happen next weekend. They were not able to get a sound permit, they were not allowed to use candles, and it was raining.

But hundreds of people turned out next to the Washington Square Arch. Christine Quinn spoke forcefully from a muted bullhorn, which the assembled silenced themselves and strained to hear. For a quickly organized, student run event, everyone was stunned to see Governor David Paterson take the bullhorn and speak forcefully from his heart.

Both Quinn and Paterson promised anti-bullying legislation. But it was Paterson, speaking both from a long history of supporting gay equality, and speaking as a blind, black man, who really seemed to stir up the crowd. Standing in the rain, bull horn in hand, he talked of being on the receiving end of taunts and slurs in a way many of the assembled could
relate to. He seemed to take the death of Raymond Chase of Monticello — the one young man being remembered last night from New York State — personnally. As Paterson spoke so personally, it was hard to distinguish the tears from the raindrops on the faces listening to him.

With candles banned, the NYU students distributed glow sticks to everyone, which were held for a moment of silence, before Broadway and “30 Rock” star Cheyenne Jackson led everyone in an almost meditative singing of “Someone Over the Rainbow”.

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