LI GLBT Expo in Melville draws thousands

Michael and Terrence Sheperd of Jackson Heights, with

Michael and Terrence Sheperd of Jackson Heights, with their 6-month old daughter Madison. The dads wear the NOH8 (No Hate Campaign) logo offered at the fourth annual Long Island GLBT Expo in Melville. (Sept. 30, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

The Long Island GLBT Expo marked its fourth anniversary Sunday, drawing more than 3,000 people who met vendors, took photos as part of an anti-hate campaign and checked out a new same-sex-wedding website.

At Hilton Long Island in Melville, the expo attracted all ages from Suffolk and Nassau counties, Manhattan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

"When you walk around, it's pretty much anything you would want in your life is here," said David Kilmnick, chief executive of Long Island GLBT Services Network, which organized the event.

Title insurance companies, banking firms, family law experts, florists, wedding venues, hospitals, colleges and spas operated booths.

Massapequa attorney Christopher J. Chimeri said people asked him about estate planning and prenuptial agreements. "What's exciting is to see these couples have a rejuvenation," Chimeri said. "After 10 or 15 years as a quote-unquote couple, they can now be spouses."

Prudential and Robert Half International staff firm were recruiting, a long-sought goal for organizers. "We have such a hard time getting the diversity officers at major corporations to pay attention to Long Island," Kilmnick said. " . . . We're making a lot of progress."

By 4 p.m., more than 400 people had signed up to take photos for the NOH8 campaign, started in 2008 after California banned same-sex marriage through Proposition 8. People posed with their mouths bound by duct tape and NOH8 written on their faces, to show how the community felt silenced by the vote.

New York University students Tesa Burns and Kate Lardner, both 19, were among those posing for the photos. "Both of us are straight, but we're huge supporters of LGBT rights," Burns said.

Also launched Sunday was ligayweddings.org, an initiative of LI GLBT Services Network, offering forums, prescreened vendor lists and wedding Web pages.

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