Way back in 1981, Charles Cochrane, a Sergeant in the New York City police Department did the unthinkable. He testified in support of New York’s gay rights bill, and in doing so, came out as a gay man, and a gay policeman, too.
"I am very proud of being a New York City policeman. And I’m equally proud of being gay."
Now, thirty-one years later, an organization of gay cops wants a street renamed in honor of Cochrane, who, after 14 years assigned to the Manhattan South Task Force, testified that gays were “not cruel, wicked, cursed, sick or possessed by demons.”
His testimony came on the heels of Pat Burns, then the first vice president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, who had argued against the bill and said he knew of no gay cops. A year later, still on the force, Cochran helped form the Gay Officers Action League, or GOAL, which paved the way for countless similar groups all around the country.
“It was a moment that changed the country. This meant something. It’s a moment that should be remembered and it should be memorialized.” — Det. Carl Locke, the current GOAL president
And now there is a proposal to rename a small block in Greenwich Village — Washington Place, between Grove St. and 6th Ave. — as Sgt. Charles H. Cochrane Way. That particular block was chosen because it’s the home of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, where Cochrane and about a dozen gay members of the NYPD met to discuss forming GOAL.
Charles Cochrane died of cancer in 2008 at the age of 64, and in an interview before his death he said he was thrilled other gays and lesbians were able to come out of the closet.
“The bigots had to retreat to the closet — and that was very satisfying.”
And it would be satisfying, and fitting, to see a street named after this pioneer in the LGBT rights movement.
Just last month Lynn Ellins stunned the state of New Mexico when he decided to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But more shocking than that decision, for Ellins, is the lack of public outcry, and outrage, over his decision.
The only crowds that gathered outside his Dona Ana County office were same-sex couples wanting to get married. Even the state’s top politicians stayed neutral, and a trio of New Mexico's Catholic bishops said it was a matter for lawmakers. Even an evangelical pastor with his own mega-church in the state's largest city was mum.
"I have gotten some fairly nasty religious-related telephone message. But generally speaking, I am surprised by the relatively muted response from those who clearly disagree." — Lynn Ellins
This lack of protest, lack of fuss, is being hailed by LGBT rights advocates as a signal that a shift in public opinion about marriage equality has taken place; even though places like Pennsylvania, where county clerks begin issuing married licenses to same-sex couples, have been court-ordered to stop the practice.
Marriage equality opponents say the people of the mostly rural state are too busy taking care of their families to worry about organized protests, which, I’m guessing, is precisely the point; folks are realizing it’s a non-issue and deciding it’s not worthy of protesting.
But, of course, one such anti-equality politician, sate Senator William Sharer, a Republican naturally, is leading a group of opponents suing to block Ellins.
"The reality is the other side built an army and trained an army before they broke the law and our side wasn't ready to fight." — Senator Sharer
New Mexico is just one of two states without laws explicitly legalizing or banning same-sex marriage, and because of that Ellins, a lawyer, began looking closely at state laws after several lawsuits were filed this year seeking to force county clerks in Santa Fe and the state's largest county, Bernalillo, to issue the licenses. Seeing that the legal process was doomed to drag on, he said, "I said, 'Enough is enough. It's time to move forward.'"
A week later, a state district judge, in Albuquerque ruled same-sex marriage was legal, and soon after that, several other county clerks also began issuing licenses. At the request of county clerks, the Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing next month to decide if same-sex marriage is legal under the state's constitution.
Even the military bases in the state are beginning to allow same-sex service men and women the right to marry on base.
The march goes on ….
And finally, the Veterans Home of Chula Vista, a senior living facility for military veterans, hosted it’s first ever same-sex wedding when World War II veteran John Banvard married his boyfriend of 20 years, Gerard Nadeau last week.
Banvard and Nadeau, who served in Vietnam, said they wanted to have their ceremony among friends, so they chose to have it at the Veteran’s Home, where they’ve lived for the last three years. They had decided to get married after the Supreme Court’s actions earlier this year, which allowed same-sex full marriage equality in California.
Many of the couple’s friends who live at the veteran’s home attended the small and simple ceremony but not everyone was keen on the idea. Facility director Neal Asper said the news of two men getting married at the VA home wasn’t well received by all, and that a town hall meeting was held at the VA home to address concerns from other residents.
“It’s been somewhat controversial. I told them, they have the right to get married here just like everybody else.”—Neal Asper
And they did.
Congratulations to a happy couple.