Over the weekend social media was abuzz about an announcement from State Senator Alex Bergstein (D-36) that she is in a relationship with former colleague Nichola Samponaro.
Her post on Facebook garnered dozens of comments of support and messages of congratulations.
Bergstein, reached by email on Sunday for comment said, “I said all I wanted to say about my personal life on my post yesterday. I’m focused on my work and never wanted any coverage of my personal life to begin with.”
Posted with the hashtags #loveislove and #ourloveandpurpose, Bergstein wrote her announcement in the context of the US House of Representatives having passed the #EqualityAct, which would extend Civil Rights protections to #LGBTQ citizens.
“Sadly, this bill is unlikely to become law with Trump/McConnell in power,” she wrote on Saturday. Still, she said she was proud to live in Connecticut, which she described as a state that values equality and acceptance.
Bergstein, who joined local officials including Attorney General William Tong, State Rep Caroline Simmons (D-144) and Matt Blumenthal (D-147) and Stamford Mayor David Martin on Friday outside Stamford Government Center, spoke about women’s rights during a rally against several highly restrictive abortion laws passed mostly in southern states.
Bergstein who traveled straight from Hartford to Stamford on Friday, said the fight for abortion rights is part of an overall fight for women’s rights.
“We are here fighting for justice, fighting for equality, fighting for the freedom to choose how we spend our lives, what we do with our bodies, how we care for families – that is our inalienable right,” she said.
Bergstein said that on Friday at 2:30am and 3:30am that morning in Hartford, two bills were passed to safeguard women’s rights.
“It was not easy,” she said. “The first was for a $15.00 minimum wage, which followed an 8-hour filibuster by opponents of the bill who had all sorts of anecdotal evidence that apparently people who work at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts do not want their wages raised.”
“By raising the minimum wage to $15.00, here’s a fact: We will lift 50% of the women in Connecticut living in poverty out of poverty.”
She said at 3:30am, a bill was passed called ‘Time’s Up.’ “It tells anyone who is a victim of sexual assault, ‘We believe you,’” she said.
Bergstein said the minimum wage law and ‘Time’s Up’ law are tied together with reproductive rights.
But, she said, “We are not safe – an 8 hour filibuster of these bills proves that The opponents were glorifying the past, talking about how great our country was 100 years ago, conveniently forgetting that our economy relied on slavery and unpaid labor by every woman in this country.”
Bergstein went on to say the best way to prevent abortion is to promote contraception.
“Contraception everywhere for everyone, and every time. That’s how we prevent abortion. If a state wants to criminalize unwanted pregnancies, they should criminalize the perpetrator. The woman does not impregnate herself. But the best policy of all is to trust women.”
On Saturday, in her social media post about her current relationship, Bergstein explained, “Long after my marriage had ended emotionally and physically, I made the decision to end it legally. Once I was free and empowered, I was able to see other paths to happiness.”
Bergstein, who is divorcing her husband, Seth whom she married in May 1995, referred to her partner as Nichola, a reference to Ms. Samponaro, whose LinkedIn profile said she is a real estate salesperson and was Co-Campaign Manager, Field Director, Data Director for Bergstein’s State Senate campaign from Aug 2018 to Nov 2018.
“Nichola I worked together on my campaign and after the Election she stayed on as a personal assistant,” Bergstein wrote on Saturday. “Like many others, we fell in love through our work and then ended our professional relationship. She shares my passion for making positive change and continues to support me as my partner. Anyone who suggests there’s something inappropriate about our relationship is close-minded and wrong. There’s no scandal here.”
Bergstein who graduated in 1988 from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT and then earned a law degree from the University of Chicago, defeated five-term incumbent Republican Scott Frantz in November 2018 a little more than 600 votes, in a night that also ended in the defeat of Republican Mike Bocchino for State Rep by Democrat Steve Meskers in District 150.
In October a group of Greenwich residents wrote a letter published in the Greenwich Free Press calling Frantz’s voting record on LGBTQ rights “shameful and hurtful,” including in 2011, opposing a bill protecting transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, securing a loan, education, and voting against the appointment of a gay judge, Andrew McDonald to Supreme Court Chief Justice.
This spring Bergstein gave a TEDx talk at Wesleyan University, where according to the Wesleyan Argus, she talked about being shaped by patriarchal values and making a conscious decision to live fearlessly when she turned 50.
“I have never felt more alive and fulfilled, and I didn’t even know it was possible. …And the more I put myself out there, the more love and purpose I got back. And all those layers of conditioning telling me who I should be and what I should want melted away. I was breaking the bonds of patriarchy and privilege and anything else that told me I was not enough,” she is quoted as saying in Wesleyan Argus.