Judge Karen Burstein arrives in the classic 1969 convertible, the historic "Stonewall Car"
[Photo by Debbie Fierro of Rubyfruit's Restaurant]
Karen Sue Burstein ("KSB"), was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Long Island's Five Towns in the Mid-South area of Nassau County, NY. The SVA's founder Willson Lee Henderson -- a second-home resident on the South Shore of Long Island since 1969 after he post-Stonewall Rebellion moved to Manhattan though his mother remained in Long Beach -- amd Karen litearlly met on the famous Long Beach Boardwalk! No, it wasn't while strolling on a warm summer's night. The memorable occasion was during Karen's first campaign for public office as a New York state senator in 1972. Willson and Gay friends greatly complimented the suspected-to-be Gay, or at least bisexual, local candidate. WLH suggested only that Karen also wear her "Karen Burstein" campaign button, explaining to her that particularly as a first-time candidate "Not everyone knows who you are"! That was an irrefutable fact and smart advice. Surrounded by many supporters and those with waiting questions, Karen logically agreed. Willson personally pinned her campaign button on her shirt. By the way, this is customary for a candidate to wear their own promotional campaign pin. An hour or so later while criss-crossing on the Long Beach Boardwalk, they all ran into each other again. Willson instantly noticed that Karen had removed her own campaign button from her shirt. Karen observed that he noticed. He did not say one word, which Karen had to appreciate not being questioned. Willson quietly realized that Karen is very deeply her own person even down to not wearing her own campaign button. They've been friends ever since!
That year, 1972, Karen won election to the State Senate of New York. KSB was elected for three admirable terms serving six long years commuting from Long Island to Albany -- plus Manhattan -- through the end of 1978. For the Gay rights happening years of 1979 (10th anniversary of Stonewall) and 1980, Karen served under Governor Hugh Carey as the Commissioner of the regulatory Public Service Commission. From 1981 to mid-1983, K.S. Burstein was appointed as the Director of the crucial New York State Consumer Protection Board. Then, for nearly five years, Karen was appointed by Governor Mario M. Cuomo as President of the also extremely important Civil Service Commission from 1983 through 1987. Her next prestigeous position had one of the best titles anywhere. Karen was chosen as the Auditor General -- of New York City -- serving from 1987 to 1990. "General" Burstein commenced the next decade in 1990, at the appointment by Mayor David Dinkens, as a New York City Family Court Judge. In early 1994, Judge Karen was urged by so many that the time was right to "move on up".
In April, she relinquished her judgeship in order to be a candidate for something far greater: the Attorney General of New York State! The Democratic Primary with four nominees was as tough as nails. It was Gay Karen versus three extra-ambitious allegedly straight men. Williamson humorously dubbed it: "Karen Bee versus Ollie, Charlie and Ellie". (Koppell, Hynes and Spitzer.) Judge Burstein challenged the sitting Attorney General G. Oliver Koppell, the Brooklyn District Attorney J. Charles Hynes and former prosecutor Eliot L. Spitzer. In a down-to-the-wire Democratic Primary Election Night moment, Karen was victorious! In fact, she powerfully defeated three highly-qualified, well-financed and tough opponents, including a future Attorney General (ELS), who placed fourth (last) herein.
Karen Burstein Wins the Democratic Nomination
The campaign was a rough rollercoaster ride. All of the political polls indicated that Karen was in the lead for the entire campaign process. Unfortunately, there was an anti-Gay current. Some posters and flyers read: "Dennis Vacco, straight as an arrow". (That is clearly anti-Gay and to evoke fear in the voters -- in the mid-1990s.) Moreover, it was a national sweep-year for Republicans. New York State Governor Mario Cuomo lost his bid for a fourth term to a basically 'unknown'. Although Karen garnered a whopping two million-plus votes, she narrowly and unfairly did not prevail.
Since Judge Burstein's historic year of 1994, she established her prominent solo law practice. Karen also continues providing her expertise and experience on a volunteer basis as evidenced by her being chosen as the Chairperson of the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women ("NACVAW").
The STONEWALL Rebellion Veterans Association ("S.V.A.") since the "Stonewall 25" milestone in 1994 realized that for various reasons of the new 1990s, the S.V.A. needed to protect its interests, its legal rights, its property and its name. We surely had no such matters nor concerns in 1969. The S.V.A. also had to obtain a "corporate" counsel. S.V.A. officers were unanimous in their first and only choice: Judge Karen S. Burstein, who was hot off her 1994 historic N.Y.S. Attorney General campaign of being the first openly-Gay person to seek elected statewide office. The fact that Karen and the S.V.A. President, Willson L. Henderson, had known each other from Long Beach, Long Island, and Karen's campaigns, cemented the pro bono arrangement. To S.V.A., it was our one and only "gift" for our "Silver Anniversary". The following year, 1995, New York City Judge Karen was rightfully selected as the "Grand Marshal of the 26th Annual New York City Gay Pride Parade". Karen was in the "lead" section of the parade, accompanied by her girlfriend Marion Lee, along with the renowned S.V.A. contingency, Queen Allyson Allante (who walked the entire route in heels) and the famous "Stonewall Car". In true form, "the Judge" also walked the entire route of the parade. Mostly, Karen symbolized then 1969 blueand now an authentic winner in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender ("G.L.B.T.") communities. In fact, in the general election, openly-Gay Democratic candidate Karen Burstein received an astounding amount of over two million votes in 1994 for New York State Attorney General.
=Grand Marshal Burstein=
Karen was the Grand Marshal of the 1995 New York City GLBT Pride Parade
[Photo by Farrell Armstrong]
The honorable Karen S. Burstein has honorably maintained her position of importance as Corporate Counsel to the STONEWALL Veterans' Association in the New Millinnium 2000 for over a problem-free decade and counting.
=State Supreme Court Justice Beatrice Burstein, mother of Karen, Passes at 85=
Judge Beatrice S. Burstein hailed from The Five Towns on the South Shore of Nassau County, Long Island, NY. She was quite renowned and highly-respected. In fact, Justice Burstein was widely supported by citizens of all persuasions, political parties and colors.
=Karen S. Burstein honored at GLBT event=
On Tuesday the 17th of June in 2008 @ 6 p.m., the honorable and unique Karen S. Burstein was honored for her outstanding political and legal Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender ("G.L.B.T.") community triumphs over the past four decades!!!! The event is sponsored by the Manhattan Borough President's ("MBP") Office. The MBP Scott M. Stringer bestowed the Honor and the Proclamation to Karen. A relevant, incremental, informative, inspiring and memorable speech was delivered by Judge Karen. She was applauded numerously and loudly. One of the life points of KSB's speech is that: "It's okay to be different"! This commemoration was part of the Official Gay Pride Celebration in the City of New York. Just like in the KSB political years, the STONEWALL Rebellion Veterans Association, the Imperial QUEENS & Kings of New York ("IQKNY") and PRIDE Democrats of New York City were well-represented to celebrate the much-deserving Karen. Special friends of Karen such as Marion Lee, Willson Henderson, Joan Dean, Ruth Feinsilver and Beverly Koenig sat with her in the reserved front row. Pam Elam was up and about on foot. AnDre Christie coordinated the SVA's participation for KSB. Karen's accomplished sister the photographer J-e-s-s-i-c-a Burstein did the pix! The event happened at the prominent G.L.B.T. Community Services Centre at 212 West 13th Street between Seventh Avenue South and Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan, New York. Hats off to "Karala"!
=Another Chapter in the Burstein Book=
Karen Burstein ("KSB") was so determined, diligent and fervent to elect Senator Barack as the next President of the United States that -- besides contributing significant sums to his campaign -- she travelled to political battleground state Pennsylvania, for example, to register new voters and get out the "O": vote! As you must know, Barack won Pennsylvamia early in the election evening and, not that much after, the United States of America!
Newsworthy conferences occurred between Governor David Paterson and Judge Karen Burstein in October and November of 2008 pertaining to KSB being the next New York State Chief Counsel. This was clearly an intelligent and innovative proposal on both of their parts. Although all of the invreasing and varied details were nearly completed, to state it analogously, the executive shoe was -- out of necessity and changing situations -- redesigned and reshaped to the extent that the shoe no longer fit! So, as of December 1st, the renowned Karen S. Burstein shall continue her lucrative and busy private law practice from the capital of the World -- no, not Albany but -- Manhattan!