Tom Duane Won’t Seek State Senate Reelection

Thomas K. Duane, the out gay Chelsea Democrat first elected to the New York State Senate in 1998, will announce his decision not to seek reelection this November at a noon press conference on June 4.

Duane, who is 57, was elected to the Senate after serving seven years on the New York City Council, where he held the seat now occupied by Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian who once served as his chief of staff.

During Duane’s time in the Senate, the state enacted hate crimes legislation that included protections for gay and lesbian New Yorkers, adopted a gay rights law, and put in place school anti-bullying protections based on categories including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression –– all measures on which he served as lead sponsor.

Undoubtedly, though, the most significant advance for LGBT rights during Duane’s time in the Senate came in June 2011 when New York enacted a marriage equality law with the strong support of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In addition to those four measures, Duane was also the long-time sponsor of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a transgender civil rights measure passed five times in the Assembly but consistently stalled in the Senate. Over the past year, Duane handed off the lead sponsorship of that measure to his Democratic Senate colleague Daniel Squadron, who represents portions of Lower Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn.

In 1994, after only three years on the Council, Duane challenged West Side Congressman Jerry Nadler, who was finishing up his first term, in the Democratic primary. Nadler had been appointed by party leaders to run as the Democratic candidate in 1992 when incumbent Democrat Ted Weiss died suddenly during the fall election campaign, so he was considered potentially vulnerable. In a district that included sections of Brooklyn as well as Manhattan, however, Nadler dispatched Duane by a roughly two-to-one margin.