The LGBT Network honored public relations executive and Democratic National Committeeman Robert P. Zimmerman, a prominent national voice for LGBT equality, at its May 3 Gala at the Crest Hollow Country Club. Joy Behar, Emmy Award-winning cohost of ABC’s The View, was guest speaker and presented the LGBT Network Award to event honoree Zimmerman, founder and partner of Zimmerman/Edelson, Inc., a marketing, public relations and advertising firm based on Bond Street.
“I am honored [that] Joy is presenting me the award,” said Zimmerman, who’s known in the New York business community for his leadership in government and community service. “I seldom lend my name, but this has special meaning to me. The LGBT Network does outstanding work and I’m honored to help out any way I can.”
A Great Neck resident since childhood, Zimmerman possesses impressive credentials. He was nominated by former President Barack Obama to serve as a member of the National Council on the Humanities. He was also appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the New York State SAGE Commission, charged with the most extensive restructuring of state government since the 1920s. He serves as a member of the board of the American Museum of Natural History representing New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for an Urban Future, a leading urban think tank. In 1995, he was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to serve on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Presidential Commission on the Arts and held that position through 2001.
Zimmerman has also been an advocate on network television over the years and appears regularly on CNN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business News and MSNBC discussing a wide range of international and national issues, including LGBT equality.
“I’m proud to have lent my voice and worked with many grassroots advocates,” he said, “I’m just one voice sometimes against many, but have been a proud voice and a proud activist.”
The honoree was motivated to become an advocate for LGBT equality because, he believes, “It is one of the great civil rights causes of our time. We’re seeing so many young people in many communities proudly express who they are and embrace their sexual orientation,” Zimmerman explained.
“That is very different than when I was growing up in Great Neck. This is why the work of the LGBT Network is so essential. [It] provides a safe place for so many young people who are coming out and expressing their feelings. The Gay Straight Alliances supported by the LGBT Network create an inclusive and accepting environment in our schools. They foster an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion that saves lives,” he continued.
“I’m very proud to be one of many voices in our country. Even with great achievements for equality and justice for the LGBT community there are so many challenges ahead. Even with marriage equality, a couple can get married on Sunday and fired on Monday, just for putting a picture of their spouse on their desk.”
Zimmerman believes that the acceptance of LGBT individuals has come a long way since his childhood.
“In Great Neck where I grew up, built my business and still live, we have a welcoming environment. When I was growing up, if someone said they were gay, they were told to see a therapist and get over it,” recalled Zimmerman, who received his BA from Brandeis University in 1976 and his masters in business administration from Fordham University in 1982. “Thank goodness, that type of thinking is no longer accepted. The atmosphere has improved throughout the country. Let’s not ignore fighting job discrimination, respecting the rights of our transgender citizens and making sure that our young people are living in a world of inclusion and acceptance as they address their orientation and build their life.”
Zimmerman was elected to serve as a Democratic National Committeeman from New York in 2000 and still holds that position. He was also a trustee of the 2009 Presidential inauguration. In addition to working in many different campaign organizations and media roles in the last five presidential campaigns, Zimmerman was the New York State cochairman of the John Kerry presidential campaign in 2004 and the managing chair of the New York State Al Gore presidential campaign in 2000.
Behar is an outspoken LGBT advocate, often defending and speaking up for equal rights while interviewing politicians on The View, and has won numerous awards for her outstanding friendship to the LGBT community.
“We are excited to have Ms. Behar present the award to Robert, who is so deserving of this recognition. They both exemplify what is needed more than ever before—bold and strong voices, standing up against hate and for full equality,” says LGBT Network CEO David Kilmnick. Proceeds from the Copacabana-themed gala will support the LGBT Network’s anti-bullying programs, such as Gay Straight Alliances, in Long Island schools and communities.
“For families who are frightened or angry or worried about their children’s sexual orientation,” Zimmerman assured, “they should be proud that their child can be so open and live the life that they were intended to live. That’s the sign of a strong family and great parenting.”