Senator Tom Duane, a longtime outspoken gay-rights activist, is leaving the State Senate on January 1st after a prolific 14-year career representing Manhattan communities from East Midtown, Downtown and the Upper West Side. Duane says he’s ready to move on with his life, though he plans to remain active in pursuing the agenda items most important to him in whatever way he can. We spoke to the Senator about his reasons for retiring and his plans for the future.
What made you decide not to seek reelection?
I’ve been here for seven terms, I wanted to do something else and realized it’s time to start the next chapter.
How have you seen state politics evolve in the course of your career?
I’ve seen much of the legislation I pushed for have a direct impact on people’s lives. I’ve seen these things spread to other cities and states as well. It’s been important to me to work hard to pass legislation that serves as a model for other cities.
What were the defining moments of your career as a member of the Senate?
I think I set a good example in that every piece of legislation I pushed for, whether in the minority or majority, [and] had support from both sides of the aisle. I also made a direct impact on people’s lives passing legislation on hate crimes, health care, marriage equality, gender identity expression and sex trafficking. I supported the Midwifery Modernization act to allow nurse midwives to practice in New York State. I’ve supported routine HIV testing and helped lessen the stigma, particularly within correctional facilities. I also supported the prohibition of insurance companies to create tier four drugs with incredibly expensive co-payments.
What are your plans now that you have made the decision to retire from the Senate?
I would say “retire” is not a completely accurate term, I’m just not ready for reelection. I plan to continue working in my own small way to make the world a better place, I’m just not sure of the form of that yet. I plan to indulge in the luxury of thinking about what that may be. I hope to continue working for those who have not had a voice in government. I will still focus on working incredibly hard until the end of my term on January 1st.
What will you miss the most?
I’ll miss the challenges of garnering the widest possible support for issues I believe in, especially from people who have not shared my points of view. I’ll miss finding that common ground, and working with people in a collegial manner to pass bills that help people in a way they should be helped. Now I’ll be doing that in a different way than in elected office.
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