May 23, 2011

Statement to the Community: Stonewalled by the Center -- Enough is Enough


Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to Meet at LGBT Center May 26 at 6:30 PM
Request for Space Stonewalled by Center
Queers for an Open LGBT Center Say, “Enough is Enough”

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid will hold a planning meeting for participation in New York-area Pride marches on Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 PM at the LGBT Community Center at 208 W. 13th St. Queers for an Open LGBT Center is calling on community members to show up on Thursday in solidarity with their request for meeting space.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid works to build LGBT opposition to the Israeli government’s institutional racism and occupation of Palestinian lands and in solidarity with Queer Palestinians who identify how these issues are a necessary part of their Queer agenda.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid applied for meeting space on May 10. The Center’s stated policy is to respond to such requests within “two to three business days,” but the Center has still not confirmed a meeting space and time for the group almost TWO WEEKS later. Instead of receiving an answer, the group has been stonewalled, asked to answer a raft of questions about its intentions and stonewalled again. Promises were made

to give the group a decision by various dates including May 20, but now the Center’s director of operation, Rob Wheeler, is telling the group “there is sensitivity around the name of the group,” the Center “wanted to think it through,” “didn’t want to rush it,” “this is going to the board next week,” “the big issue is the name of your group,” and “we don’t have clarity on process and are concerned about the process.” The Center is holding this group to different standards and asking questions about its longevity and relationships with other groups that it has not asked of any other group meeting at the Center. These delays and deferrals amount to a denial of meeting space and a clear attempt to filter and censor queer political organizing.

Enough is enough. The pride season is upon us, starting with the Queens Pride Parade on June 5, and the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid group has to meet now in order to begin planning for its participation in these events. The Center is not providing a reason in a timely fashion why this queer group is effectively being denied the opportunity to meet in our Community Center and keeps moving the goalpost. The Center will not say when their board meeting is, but we no longer have time to wait to find out.

No LGBTQ group to our knowledge has ever been put through this kind of delay or political vetting process by the Center.

Queers for an Open LGBT Center, which has been working to get the Center to reverse its precipitous decision to expel Siege Busters from the Center and to keep the Center open to all, is in solidarity with the request by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to be able to meet at the Center on an ongoing basis. When Siege Busters was expelled, the Center said the group was not queer specific and too “controversial.” This new standard has not been applied to any other group meeting at the Center, many of which are both controversial and not queer-specific. Queers for an Open LGBT Center has called for the board to open its meetings. Last month Glennda Testone, the Center’s executive director, rejected the group’s request to meet with the board about these issues.

When Queers Against Israeli Apartheid applied, the reference to “sensitivity around the name” was a resurrection of the vague and insidious indictment as “controversial,” a term that does and should apply to virtually any group that meets at the Center. Queer lives are controversial in our society in case the Center board has not noticed.

We are calling to all those who support the meeting-space request of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to come out in solidarity on Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 PM. We will meet in the Center lobby to make sure that there is a place to meet in the Center. We are not looking for a confrontation and we are committed to nonviolence, but we cannot predict how the Center will respond.

This is not about endorsing Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Some of the undersigned are members of that group, others of Queers for an Open LGBT Center and some of both. But all of us longtime LGBT activists are united in insisting on an open LGBT Community Center that does not reject groups on the basis of political viewpoint.

More than 1,600 people have already signed a petition to demand an open LGBT Center. You can see who has signed and add your name at

You can read more about the issue, including press reports, at

We urge you to call Glennda Testone, the Center’s executive director, at (212) 620-7310 or e-mail her at and demand that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid be allowed to meet at the Center. Also contact Mario Palumbo, president of the Center board at (212) 875-4900 or e-mail him at

Let’s put the community back in our Community Center.

Steve Ault
Naomi Brussel
Leslie Cagan
Bill Dobbs
Lisa Duggan
Marla Erlien
Emmaia Gelman
Andy Humm
Bob Lederer
J.F. Mulligan
Ann Northrop
Pauline Park
Brad Taylor

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