By Heather Grossmann
MANHATTAN — The 38-24 state Senate vote against the gay marriage bill last Wednesday left many New Yorkers irate, but Washington Heights resident Rita L. McKee, who watched the live webcast of the Senate vote from her home, decided to take action.
Seconds after the marriage equality bill was defeated, McKee shot out an e-mail to her fellow Community Board 12 members saying she was on strike.
McKee, who is in a domestic partnership, said the "no" vote had made her a second-class citizen. She said she would not be participating in CB12 activities “until such time as my citizenship status is more clearly defined.”
"If they deny me civil rights equal to every other citizen in my district, and I continue to work under those conditions, it would mean tacit acceptance of a form of slavery," McKee said. "I simply cannot accept it."
Withdrawing from her community board duties was her way to make a statement,
McKee has been a member of CB12 for four years, is active on the Traffic and Transportation Committee and serves as the board’s Webmaster. She is up for reappointment, but her application, which hangs from a magnet in her home office, will not be submitted to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office.
“I can’t fill it out, I’m on strike,” McKee said. That means that she may attend board meetings as a member of the public, but won't make comments, vote or sign-in.
She hopes that next year, when the bill could hit the Senate floor again, legislators will approve it, so “I can get back to work.”
So far, she has received mixed responses from her colleagues. Some have been positive — one reads, "Hopefully, you are heartened by the many words of support from fellow CB12 members and realize that you are not alone in the battle for fairness and equality for All!" — but many express doubt that this form of protest is the best way to register her discontent.
“I don’t think it’s really an effective approach,” said Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, a CB12 member. “That said, in the wake of Rita’s e-mail, there are people on the board talking in a much more personal way about marriage equality.”
Ritter said that discussion could lead to a resolution urging the state to legalize gay marriage. McKee points out that her domestic partnership does not afford the same benefits as marriage.
“I know that there are a lot of people on the community board who don’t understand this, who don’t agree with my actions,” McKee said.
“But I need to drive home to people that real live people are being impacted by this.”