Sunday, February 21, 2010

NY Assemblymember Kellner Given Brenda Howard Award

Out bisexual New York State Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner was honored at the 17th Annual PFLAG-Queens awards luncheon today by being given the 2009 Brenda Howard Memorial Award.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner at work in NY

He was introduced by Estraven, Secretary of BiNET USA, with these words:

"Ladies, Gentlemen, or however you identify yourselves,

We are gathered here today to give the The Brenda Howard Award to New York State Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner. It is given yearly, and recognizes an individual or organization whose work on behalf of the LGBT Community best exemplifies the vision, principals and community service of the late bisexual rights activist Brenda Howard, and who serves as a positive and visible role model for the Bisexual Community.

I first met Micah last year, and over the time I have known him I have become more and more impressed with him. It is easy to be impressed with what he has done in the Assembly for LGBT New Yorkers. He was first elected to represent New York’s 65th Assembly District in 2007. In that short time, he has been a strong champion of marriage equality for same-gender couples, co-sponsoring the Assembly bill and voting for it three times. He also co-sponsors and has voted for GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act.

Micah is the author of two bills that will be helpful to the LGBT community. The first requires the State Office of the Aging to do an annual report to assess the needs of and delivery of services to LGBT seniors and to provide technical assistance to organizations that provide services to LGBT senior populations. The second would require judges in criminal court to instruct juries to disregard appeals to bias and prejudice through courtroom tactics, such as when a perpetrator of a crime employs a “panic defense” strategy. He has also been working to secure the right of same-gender couples to file their taxes jointly in New York State. He has worked closely with the Governor's office on this and is hoping for a victory this year.

However, as I have gotten to know Micah better, and have learned more about him, I have become even more impressed with him as a person. As an infant, Micah was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and underwent numerous operations and years of physical therapy.  His disability is not visable, but instead of hiding it, while earning his Bachelor’s degree at New York University, he became politically active on behalf of the disabilities community, and has since become a powerful voice for the rights of persons with disabilities in the Empire State.

Again, during his first campaign, he was advised by people who cared about him to hide the fact that he is bisexual, since that is also not obvious, and to say that he is straight, or to say that he is gay, anything but bisexual. But hiding and sneaking is not Micah’s way. Instead, he is one of only four out and proud elected bisexual officials in the United States of America. Every out LGBT elected official does immeasurable good for all the LGBT people in this country. Research shows that prejudice is most readily dispelled by people seeing someone who does not act like the negative stereotype. Having an out and proud bisexual politician like Micah, who lives a quiet life, works extremely hard for his constituents, and actually continues, month in and month out, to EXIST (disproving the biphobic myth that no one else in the LGT spectrum has to struggle with, that we B’s don’t even exist) does more for bisexuals than any other single person possibly could, and takes more courage than we can possibly know.

Finally, not only does Micah give a voice to the least often heard segments of the population, bisexuals and the disabled, but he gives a voice to those literally without a voice; animals. He is an animal rights activist, and introduced Oreo’s Law to protect animals from being needlessly euthanized in shelters.

Gandhi once said 'A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.' Micah’s greatness is measured by his compassion for those with no voice, and by his courage. The election of the first biracial President has made me wonder if we will ever have a bisexual President; Micah’s intelligence, command of the issues, and concern for all of his constituents certainly makes him worthy of the job."


Previous winners of the Brenda Howard Memorial Award:

2005 - Lawrence Nelson
2006 - Tom Limoncelli
2007 - Wendy Moscow
2008 - Wendy Curry