Reflect, empower, unite: Personal stories shine at Brooklyn Court’s pride event

June 14, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
From left: Court Attorney Ronald Cosme, Jr., Surrogate Court Judge Rosemarie Montalbano, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives Hon. Edwina Richardson, Hon. Richard Montelione and Hon. Joanne Quinones, justice of the Kings County Supreme Court and chair of the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee, at the Pride Month Celebration. Brooklyn Eagle photos by Robert Abruzzese
Share this:

The Brooklyn Supreme Court’s Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee hosted its inaugural Pride Month Celebration on Tuesday, June 4, in the Surrogate’s Courtroom. This year’s theme was “Reflect. Empower. Unite.”

Organized by Hon. Joanne Quinones, justice of the Kings County Supreme Court and chair of the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee, the event featured notable attendees, including Hon. Edwina Richardson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives.

From left: County Clerk and Commissioner of Jurors Nancy Sunshine, Hon. Matthew D'Emic and Hon. Connie Mallafre Melendez at the Pride Month Celebration in the Brooklyn Supreme Court's Surrogate’s Courtroom.
From left: County Clerk and Commissioner of Jurors Nancy Sunshine, Hon. Matthew D’Emic and Hon. Connie Mallafre Melendez at the Pride Month Celebration in the Brooklyn Supreme Court’s Surrogate’s Courtroom.

“Among our many goals and purposes, we aim to support and encourage a bias-free environment that reflects, recognizes, and respects the rich diversity of our judicial district,” said Justice Quinones. “Programs like this are one of the ways we strive to meet our goals.”

The event featured brief speeches by Lewis Speaks-Tanner from the Pride Alliance and Omari Scott, director of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center. Court Attorney Ronald Cosme Jr. and Justice Richard Montelione, who delivered the keynote speech, also addressed the audience.

Lewis Speaks-Tanner from the Pride Alliance addresses attendees at the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee’s Pride Month Celebration.
Lewis Speaks-Tanner from the Pride Alliance addresses attendees at the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee’s Pride Month Celebration.

“I am proud to welcome all to this Equal Justice Committee Pride Month celebration,” said Justice Lawrence Knipel, the administrative judge for the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term. “This pride celebration and events such as this are an important aid in promoting and facilitating an expectation of this court’s ironclad commitment to equal justice for all.”

Administrative Judge Matthew D’Emic of the Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term, shared a personal anecdote, which he hoped to illustrate the impact of such celebrations. 

“My daughter and son-in-law live in Breezy Point in Queens,” D’Emic said. “Every June, they fly the pride flag. A couple of years ago, my daughter found a note that said, ‘Dear neighbor, thank you for flying the pride flag. From a mom whose queer son feels less alone here.’ That is why we need celebrations like this.”

The audience attentively listens to the speakers at the Brooklyn Supreme Court's Pride Month Celebration, reflecting the community's commitment to equality and justice.
The audience attentively listens to the speakers at the Brooklyn Supreme Court’s Pride Month Celebration, reflecting the community’s commitment to equality and justice.

Lewis Speaks-Tanner, president of the Pride Alliance of the NYS Courts, highlighted the organization’s support network, especially upstate. He noted, “It’s more comfortable for people to be gay and open downstate, but we’re actually getting more support upstate.”

Omari Scott spoke about the Brooklyn Community Pride Center’s role in advancing LGBTQ+ liberation. The center celebrates, commemorates, and convenes LGBTQ+ Brooklyn through socially conscious and culturally responsive programs, partnerships and advocacy, he said. Scott emphasized the center’s mission to create affirming spaces for the community to gather, learn, celebrate, heal, socialize, play and organize.

Omari Scott, director of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, speaks about the center's mission and impact during the Pride Month Celebration.
Omari Scott, director of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, speaks about the center’s mission and impact during the Pride Month Celebration.

Court Attorney Ronald Cosme, Jr. shared a deeply personal story about his journey to self-acceptance. 

“As I reflect, I immediately think back to Oct. 2, 2007,” Cosme said. “In the early morning hour that day, I was awoken to learn that my father had passed away. When this happened, I couldn’t help but think that there was much of me, or so much of me, that he didn’t have a chance to know yet and would now never have a chance to know.”

Ronald Cosme Jr., court attorney to Hon. Joanne Quinones, shares his personal journey of coming out and the importance of living authentically during the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee’s Pride Month Celebration at the Brooklyn Supreme Court on June 4.
Ronald Cosme Jr., court attorney to Hon. Joanne Quinones, shares his personal journey of coming out and the importance of living authentically during the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee’s Pride Month Celebration at the Brooklyn Supreme Court on June 4.

Cosme continued, “It was that event that encouraged me to live my very own truth. After the grief subsided, I pondered how I would tell my family — what I would tell my family. Finally, that Christmas, I built up enough courage and came out to my entire family.”

He also shared the challenges he faced, “My mother had a difficult time adjusting to the news. We went to church every Sunday and sometimes even to Bible study. I knew her reason for the increased presence at church. Despite this, today, I’m happy to say that my mother and I share a very close relationship.”

Cosme explained the importance of love and support from friends and mentors. 

Members of the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee gather at the Pride Month Celebration in the Brooklyn Supreme Court's Surrogate’s Courtroom, showcasing their dedication to promoting equality and justice for the LGBTQ+ community.
Members of the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee gather at the Pride Month Celebration in the Brooklyn Supreme Court’s Surrogate’s Courtroom, showcasing their dedication to promoting equality and justice for the LGBTQ+ community.

“I was fortunate enough to have a group of friends and mentors, both near and far, who showed me what it means to love the community and embrace our unique experiences,” Cosme said. “The road to self-acceptance wasn’t easy. I had my fair share of ridicule, teasing, name-calling and judgment because of my sexuality. Nonetheless, I truly believe in the words of Elliot Page: we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.”

Justice Richard Montelione delivered the keynote speech, reflecting on his 38-year marriage to his husband, Jack. 

“I’m happy to report that gay marriage did not destroy the institution of marriage in America,” he said. Justice Montelione then discussed societal changes he has seen. 

Hon. Richard Montelione delivers the keynote speech in the Surrogate's Courtroom, adorned with rainbow flags.
Hon. Richard Montelione delivers the keynote speech in the Surrogate’s Courtroom, adorned with rainbow flags.

“I reflect on my years of growing up where even a hint of affection for someone of the same sex was a license for bullying or worse,” Montelione said. “Now I see same-sex couples holding hands in various neighborhoods. It gives me joy because that used to be an act of bravery.”

He also spoke about the progress made in LGBTQ+ rights, contrasting the past with the present. “It was also aspirational decades ago that the Supreme Court of the United States would recognize same-sex marriage, but here I am with my husband. The younger generation is changing the world for the better. They have already figured out there is only one love, and they are not afraid.”


Leave a Comment


Leave a Comment