Mary Trump headlines Jim Owles dinner

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Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.
Andy Humm

Mary Trump, who has labeled her Uncle Donald “the most dangerous man in America,” took a message of hope to the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club’s winter dinner on Janunary 20 at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. Trump, an out lesbian, said that during the pandemic “we learned about the importance of community” — the kind of community “we have with like-minded people” and how to fight hard for what we believe in. Receiving one of the club’s Human Rights Awards, she said, “The fight is worth it and I’m honored to be in the fight with all of you.”

Mary Trump delivers remarks at Jim Owles’ dinner.Andy Humm

The club’s longtime President, Allen Roskoff, hit similar themes, recounting how he used hardball tactics to get Governor Andrew Cuomo to meet with him about granting clemencies, especially for Judith Clark, who Cuomo then met with in prison and commuted her sentence. “Anybody has the power to do outrageous things that can make a positive difference,” he said, challenging his audience to get arrested if necessary for the sake of their causes.

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — there to present an award to Sara Nelson, leader of the flight attendants’ union — praised Roskoff’s work going back to the 1970s, including when gay people were being denied taxi licenses and challenging “the outdated cabaret laws” that forbade same-sex dancing at places such as the Rainbow Room.

Nelson, recalling how profoundly moved and accepted a gay friend felt when same-sex marriage was legalized, said, “The discrimination and hurt of other people isn’t their problem; it is all of our problems. And every step forward makes the next step possible.” She hailed the fight of her union to get people with AIDS who were wrongfully terminated back on the job and to secure domestic partner benefits for her members before marriage was possible.

Jordan E. Cooper, who at 27 became the youngest American playwright to be produced on Broadway with this season’s “Ain’t No Mo,” introduced his mentor, producer (“Monster’s Ball,” TV’s “Empire”), director (“Precious,” “The Butler”), and screenwriter Lee Daniels, who spoke movingly about the prejudice he confronted in Hollywood for decades and that he hopes Cooper will not ever to face to that degree. Both men are Black and gay.

Daniels recalled a time 25 years ago in Hollywood “being laughed out of the room and being called ‘f*****’ and ‘n*****.’ I just kicked the door down and made sure that kids like [Cooper] wouldn’t have to go through what I went through.” He reflected, “If I got called those names in the ‘80s, what did Jim Owles go through [in the ‘70s]?” (Owles, who died of AIDS in 1993, was the first president of the Gay Activists Alliance in 1969, founded the Gay Independent Democrats, and was the first out candidate for City Council in 1973.)

Veteran LGBTQ ally Kathy Najimy was honored but was taken to the hospital and unable to attend. Her longtime friend, Mary-Louise Parker, recounted Najimy’s decades of progressive activism.

Among those on hand were Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, former Public Advocate Mark Green, and out gay former Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who this past year became the chief financial officer of the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade — an event that excluded LGBTQ Irish groups for 25 years and was protested annually, including by Dromm, until 2016.

There were also several progressive councilmembers, assemblymembers, and state senators there, including Senators Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Michael Gianaris. The two lawmakers, just days before, were leading the successful fight to stop Governor Hochul from appointing Hector LaSalle as the state’s chief Judge. Hoylman hopes the governor will treat this as “a bump in the road” and move on to enacting the Democratic agenda together with the legislature.

Allen Roskoff, Chuck Schumer, and Sara Nelson.
Allen Roskoff, Chuck Schumer, and Sara Nelson.Andy Humm
Lee Daniels with Jordan E. Cooper.Andy Humm
Allen Roskoff with State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Allen Roskoff with State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.Andy Humm