New York State Senator Tom Duane Leaving Politics

6.4.2012

By Jerry Portwood

Says he doesn't know what he'll do—but he won't become a lobbyist.

New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane was the first openly gay member of the New York State Senate. He also caused shockwaves two decades ago after a successful bid for New York City Council that he was HIV positive. He was recognized last year in the Out100 for his successful efforts in helping the passage of marriage equality being signed into law in New York. And this weekend he told the New York Times that he would not seek reelection to office and plans to make an official announcement today.

"As the Times noted: "No, it is not his health. No, he does not have another job lined up. And no, Mr. Duane said cheerfully in an interview, he has not done anything illegal or embarrassing that is about to make news." He also said he has no plans to become a lobbyist or to run for political office again. He said he had only begun to "think seriously about retiring a few weeks ago, around the time that he and his longtime partner, Louis Webre, attended the wedding of Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and his former chief of staff, and Kim M. Catullo."

A much younger Duane is also featured in footage in David France's film How to Survive a Plague, which documents the efforts of Act Up and TAG at its 20-year anniversary. But more recently he vented his rage while in Albany, which can be seen in this clip. As Peter Staley wrote at the time: "All the pent-up rage from what people with AIDS lived through in the 1980s and early '90s, and even some of the shit we all live through today, can be heard in Tom's voice. I've always felt we've never processed all the pain we went through back then. And we're all capable of snapping from it -- letting it spill out at any moment. There's a Tom Duane lurking deep down in all of us, waiting to be heard."

Something that Duane told staff members of Out during the Out100 photo shoot has resonated and been repeated to others: "The challenge remains to come out all the time. It's something we all must do in our personal and professional lives -- come out every day and not shy away from it."

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