by Howard Koplowitz
Members of the gay rights group Queer Rising crashed state Sen. Joseph Addabbo’s (D-Howard Beach) birthday party Sunday in South Richmond Hill for what the organization said was the senator’s betrayal of the gay community for his no vote on gay marriage.
But in a phone interview Tuesday, Addabbo said he never promised to vote for gay marriage and never disclosed how he would vote before he cast it.
As Addabbo posed for pictures with his wife, Dawn, and his two daughters, Queer Rising activist Jon Winkleman stood on a chair and shouted at the senator.
“Joe Addabbo, you took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the gay community based on a lie,” Winkleman said. “You were promising people gay marriage. You lied to us. You lied to us. You will be held accountable.”
After Winkleman spoke, members of Queer Rising chanted, “Joe must go!”
The group was kicked out of the establishment after the outburst.
Addabbo said during his campaign in 2008 he never said what his personal feelings were on gay marriage or said whether he would vote for marriage equality.
“I never promised anyone that,” he said. “Never once did [the gay community] give a dollar knowing I was a yes vote. I never committed and they still gave.”
Queer Rising posted a video of the incident at Villa Russo Il Palazzo in South Richmond Hill on YouTube.
Winkleman claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the LGBT community flowed into Addabbo’s campaign coffers for his 2008 race against then-Sen. Serphin Maltese because Addabbo said he was in favor of gay marriage.
No gay groups or political action committees donated to Addabbo, but Tim Gill, a software billionaire from Denver, Colo., who donates to pro-gay rights candidates, according to Winkleman, gave the senator $9,5000, campaign finance records showed.
When gay marriage came to a vote in the Senate earlier this year, Addabbo was the first no vote.
The senator said at the time he voted the way he did because it was the will of his constituents. He said 74 percent of the correspondence sent to his office by people in his district indicated they did not want gay marriage to pass.
Winkleman said Addabbo’s vote was more hurtful to the gay community than other legislators’ because they believed they could count on him to vote in their favor.
“At least when the Republicans screwed us, they did it for free,” Winkleman said, referring to the contributions gays gave to Addabbo.
Winkleman claimed “gay money” was the difference in Addabbo’s tight race with Maltese, whom he called “a big homophobe.”
Addabbo “misled a lot of big donors and volunteers from the gay community that he was going to support marriage,” Winkleman said.
But the senator said his margin of victory was sizeable and he did not believe the contributions from gays put him over the top.
“I don’t think a victory by 10,000 votes is a small margin,” he said.
Addabbo said Queer Rising told him his method for taking the pulse of his district on gay marriage was flawed, so the senator promised to pay for a poll on the issue.
“Once again, I’ll listen to my people,” he said.