N.Y. State Sen. Tom Duane, 1st Out-HIV+ Politician, Retires
New York State Senator Thomas Duane (D), the country’s first openly HIV positive lawmaker, announced that he was retiring, the New York Times reported.
Duane, who was also the state’s first openly gay member of the Senate, said on Monday that he would not seek re-election because of his commute. The politician said he is tired of going back and forth between New York City and Albany, which are 150 miles apart.
"It’s not that Albany isn’t a lovely place, but it’s not home," he said. "I always knew that I was going to have another chapter in my life, and it’s time for me to start that new chapter."
The 57-year-old political veteran, who is the only openly gay member of the New York State Senate, represents a district on Manhattan’s West Side that includes parts of the Upper West Side, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, Greenwich Village and part of the East Side.
In an interview with the Times Duane said that he started to seriously think about retiring only a few weeks ago after he and his longtime partner, Louis Webre, attended the wedding of Christine Quinn - the current Speaker of the New York City Council who will most likely run for mayor.
Quinn was Duane’s campaign manager in 1991. During his second race for city council, he decided to disclose that he was HIV positive. The lawmaker was a member of the city’s council until Quinn replaced him in 1999.
Since Duane and Quinn, the district, which includes some of the best-known gayborhoods in the world, has become a de facto "gay seat" in the City Council. To replace Quinn, who will most likely run to succeed Mike Bloomberg as New York’s mayor, four LGBT Democrats are seeking her City Council seat.
Duane’s term ends on Dec. 31. As of now, Duane is unsure what he will do after he leaves office. "I am going to fight for people and in my own small way try to make the world a better place," he said. "I’m never going to stop doing that."
The Times notes that Duane is known for playing a pivotal role in legalizing same-sex marriage in New York. In an August 2011 panel discussion, Duane discussed how hard he had to work as the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate to line up votes. He is well known for a long, emotional speech when the bill failed the last time it had been proposed.
He helped pass the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination in Act, Timothy’s Law, which requires mental health plans sold in the state to cover mental health issues as well as physical ailments.
In an interview with EDGE Duane stressed that it was important for those diagnosed with HIV get the proper care they need and that it is imperative that they get into treatment early.
When talking about how HIV impacted him he said he "ate to sooth myself" and stopped exercising. He says now he exercises and eats healthy and added that he believes that physical and mental care are extremely important.
"I also think it is important for people to just generally make sure that their mental health is in a good place. And I think that is a challenge for many of us. Self-care is incredibly important. It’s a challenge and I believe it’s a challenge for a lot of people," he said. He continued to say that self-care helps people lead a better life.