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The Alliance’s vice president Lois Robb to retire as she battles cancer

July 23, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lois Robb (right) has served as vice president of the Gay/Straight Alliance of the New York State Justice System for the past 11 years, but will step down from her position and retire from the Brooklyn Supreme Court as she battles two forms of cancer. She is pictured with the Alliance’s President Marc Levine. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese.
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It’s been a monumental summer for the LGBT community, but for LGBT members of Brooklyn’s legal community it is bittersweet as Lois Robb, the longtime vice president of the Gay/Straight Alliance of the New York state Justice System, is set to retire at the end of the month.

Robb, who has worked in the court system for 23 years and currently serves as senior court clerk for Hon. Yvonne Lewis, will retire on July 30 as she continues her year-long battle with stage-four gastrointestinal stromal tumor and stage-four lung cancer.

“It’s very tough because the people I work with are not just my co-workers, but many of them are good friends and I consider this court to be like a family,” Robb said. “I’m on very heavy chemotherapy now, though, and it is kicking my butt. I’ve been battling it for a year now and it’s time to retire and focus on my health.”

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As she prepares to step down, Robb reflected back on a career that started in Staten Island, took a detour in Manhattan for a little while, but had flourished in Brooklyn. One of her proudest achievements was serving as vice president of the Alliance for the past 11 years, she said.

“Lois has been my rock,” said Marc Levine, president and founder of the Alliance. “I love her. She does so much. What she’s not going to say, because she doesn’t toot her own horn, is that she has always been my go-to person. She has been somebody who I could always say to, ‘I need something’ and she will make it happen.”

The Alliance, which has been in existence for 12 years now, was initially formed to protect the jobs of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender members of the court and to advocate for their rights and advancement. Robb said that she didn’t join out of fear for her job or mistreatment from co-workers, but simply to encourage others to not be afraid to come out of the closet.

“I had no problems being gay here,” said Robb. “Everyone treated me wonderfully. I always felt accepted. I knew a lot of people who were gay and wouldn’t come out. I couldn’t convince them, I certainly wouldn’t out them, but I tried to show by example.”

Her specialty with the Alliance was getting new members to sign up. Robb said that she never took no for an answer and Levine credits her with helping the organization in its early days when membership was very low.

“She’s one of the most loved people in this court and I’m not exaggerating,” Levine said. “Ask around. It’s true. So here is somebody who is an out lesbian saying, ‘I am a lesbian and I’m your friend and you love me so you have to join.’ Having somebody like Lois made such a difference.”

Robb isn’t exactly looking forward to retirement, especially considering the circumstances, but she admits that now is a perfect time to step away from the Alliance considering the monumental U.S. Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage in June. It’s an achievement she thought was impossible just a few years ago, and while she says the Alliance is still necessary, it is time for somebody else to pick up the next battle.

“We’ve come a long way baby,” Robb said, cracking a rare smile.

The Alliance is planning on hosting a goodbye party for Robb at the Kings County Supreme Court sometime before the end of the month. A date has not been set, but the Eagle will announce it once plans are finalized.

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