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Quinn, Christine b. 1966  
 
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Christine Callaghan Quinn is the first woman, the first openly gay person, and the first Irish-American to serve as the Speaker of the New York City Council, and she is intensely proud of all of these parts of her identity. A political force to be reckoned with, Quinn has tackled a diverse range of issues in her tenure on the Council.

Quinn is a native New Yorker, born in Glen Cove, Long Island on July 25, 1966 into a middle-class family. Her father, Lawrence Quinn, was an electrical engineer and a union steward. He is also an ardent Democrat who told his daughter that "you don't get into Heaven unless you can prove that you always paid your rent on time and that you voted Democratic." Because of her father's influence, Quinn took an interest in politics from an early age.

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Her mother, Mary Callaghan Quinn, who died in 1982 when Christine was a teenager, pursued a career as a social worker for Catholic Charities. Diagnosed with breast cancer when her two daughters were young, she tried to bring as much richness as she could to her children's lives in the time that she had left. "She wanted us to know everything," Quinn told reporter Meryl Gordon. "There were horseback-riding and French lessons and bird-watching and painting and ballet and marine biology."

Christine Quinn had realized that she was a lesbian while she was a student at a Catholic high school, but she was unable to embrace her identity at the time. Nor could she later, in her years at Trinity College, where she fell in love with another woman but considered the potential relationship doomed. With great effort, she "pushed it away."

She tried dating men but soon recognized the futility of establishing a heterosexual relationship and attempted to reconcile herself to living her life alone. Remaining closeted and without hope of a fulfilling relationship, however, proved an unbearable burden. In the interview with Gordon, Quinn stated that "for almost every person, it becomes untenable. It's impossible for your psyche. It will get you one way or another."

When Quinn came out to her father, an observant Catholic, he was not initially receptive to the news, telling her, "You should never say that again." As time went on, however, his love for his daughter overcame his qualms.

Indeed, Lawrence Quinn has become an ally of the glbtq community and marches at his daughter's side in New York's Gay Pride Parade. He has also become a close friend of Anthony Catullo, the father of Quinn's partner (and since 2011, wife), attorney Kim Catullo.

After college, Quinn first took a job as a lobbyist for an advocacy group dedicated to the building and renovation of structures in New York for affordable housing. She left that position to enter into politics as the campaign manager for Thomas K. Duane in his bid for the New York City Council in 1991. Following his election as the first openly gay member of the Council, she served as his Chief of Staff for five years. She subsequently became the Executive Director of the New York Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project and while in that position was also named by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to the New York City Police/Community Relations Task Force.

Always proud of her Irish heritage as well as her identity as a lesbian, Quinn has attempted to march in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade. When she tried to join the 1999 parade as a representative of the Lavender and Green Alliance, however, she was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Quinn continued her efforts to be allowed to take part in the parade. In 2006, when she attempted to communicate with the event chairman but was ignored and she was asked by journalists why she would not set the matter of her sexual orientation aside and simply march as an Irish-American, she replied, "I am every day of the week an Irish lesbian. So I can't take part of that and put it on the shelf. It's not the kind of human being I want to be."

Quinn has since boycotted the parade, having been unable to arrive at an accommodation with the organizers, who in 1995 won a United States Supreme Court case that allows them to ban the participation of openly identified glbtq people or groups.

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Christine Quinn (center) marching in a Gay Pride event on Staten Island in 2008. Photograph by Thomas Good / NLN.
  
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