As a congressman, Ed Koch co-sponsored a Gay Rights Bill he knew would get nowhere, but that gave gay rights advocates some leverage when dealing with the City Council.
Manhattan gay rights groups felt powerful. They had seven City Council members and six were “yes” votes. Queens had eight members, but only two were in favor. The Manhattan groups were into disruption, and would force issues to a vote without doing the arithmetic of the other four boroughs.
Manhattanites did not know or care that Queens was conservative. We took busses every Saturday to all sections of Queens with petitions to drum up support. Some places were favorable, but most were not. We eventually gathered 450 signatures - small but not for the Queens of 1973.
Koch knew of the other boroughs reluctance to back us and would send me short letters of encouragement. He was completely for a gay rights bill, but could not or would not be open about it except by sponsoring a bill in Congress, which we would point out to city Council members, for they all sought higher office.
As the Manhattan groups picked on him for a lack of open support, he became more and more reticent. Eventually he even endorsed a Republican, becoming more conservative as he aged.
We were the first gay rights group in Queens and mostly younger college students who had to remove buttons and other items before we went home after a demonstration.
I am honored that he encouraged me.
Gay Human Rights League of Queens County