Monday, April 30, 2007

Bringing the movement to Albany

Tomorrow is LGBT Equality & Justice Day. More than 1100 LGBT and straight New Yorkers will be at the state capitol to lobby their representatives to act on gay issues. It's an amazing event for many reasons, but made even more special because of Eliot Spitzer's marriage bill introduction last Friday and the fact that there has not been this large of a community presence in Albany since the 1971 March on Albany (see photo below) to demand the most basic of rights after the Stonewall riots.

(photo courtesy of Richard C. Wandell)

The day is packed with events and speakers, meetings with elected officials, a rally at lunchtime and the chance to meet other LGBT New Yorkers from all across New York State.

We'll be live-blogging throughout the day tomorrow, posting up-to-the-minute information on what's going on during the various sessions and results of the lobby meetings. If you are not going to E&J Day, you can write your State Senator and Assemblymember at the Pride Agenda's Action Center and ask them to support the marriage bill, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and the Dignity for All Students Act (starting tomorrow). If you are going, we'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning!

Morning Sweep - the Marriage Bill edition

Gov. Spitzer's marriage bill announcement (round-up):

Gay City News broke the story (along with this blog) and wrote an editorial on the work done by key players to get to this point.

New York Times writes a follow-up to the news that they broke last Monday on Spitzer's intent to introduce a marriage bill before the end of the legislative session.

Buffalo News provides a great explanation on the NYS Dept. of Civil Service announcement to make legally married same-sex spouses of government employees eligible for benefits.

The Albany Times-Union provides a look on where state legislators in the Capitol Region stand on the issue of marriage equality.

A particularly poignant editorial in Newsday explains how the U.S. needs to look to South Africa's moral leadership on ending discrimination against same-sex couples.

The NY Daily News wrote an editorial calling on the legislature to act on this issue.

Journal News covers reaction in Rockland County, including comments from Nyack's openly gay mayor John Shields.

The Brooklyn Courier papers tell where that borough's state representatives stand on the issue .

There were also broadcast segments on NY1 and Channel 12 Long Island. The Channel 12 piece is particularly good because it highlights why marriage equality is especially important for gay couples who need the protections of marriage for their children.

In other news...

Sadly, a group of African American pastors is lobbying fiercely against the passage of the Hate Crimes Bill.

Support/opposition for same-sex marriage in Connecticut is split pretty evenly, with support edging out opposition 49% to 46%, but the trend is towards those in support, reports the Hartford Courant.

Pam Spaulding tells us about the real gay agenda.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A response from the other side

Ruben Diaz, NY State Senator from the Bronx and longtime homophobe, posted the following on the NYTimes Empire Zone blog:

New York State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz Rejects Governor’s Intention to Legalize Gay Marriage

New York State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) opposes New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer’s bill to legitimize gay marriage in New York State, something the Governor considers to be a “simple moral imperative”.

“This is a slap in the face to the millions of New Yorkers who support the moral, legal and traditional definition of marriage as between man and woman,” Senator Diaz stated. “In the minds of millions of New Yorkers, legalizing gay marriage is against our religious beliefs.”

Senator Rev. Diaz is calling for his colleagues in Albany, his fellow ministers, Edward Cardinal Egan, religious leaders, and all New Yorkers who defend the constitutionality of New York’s marriage laws to join him in opposition to this proposed legislation.

Governor Spitzer is the first governor in the United States to introduce legislation to legalize marriage between man and man, and woman and woman. According to Senator Rev. Diaz, “By doing this the Governor shows disrespect and disregard for religious beliefs followed by Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Evangelicals, and every other
State resident who time after times has shown a vast opposition to gay marriage.”

Just so we’re clear on the facts, consider the following:

To Sen. Diaz’s assumption that there is “vast opposition to gay marriage,” we have some facts to the contrary (here, too).

There are also more than a few religious leaders who disagree with Diaz.

Assemblyman Canestrari changes his position on marriage

Albany-area Assemblyman Ron Canestrari (D) has has changed his position against marriage equality and now supports it. This comes on the day that Gov. Spitzer introduced a marriage bill in the NYS Legislature.

Canestrari has traditionally been a supporter of the LGBT community, but was rated "opposed to marriage" on the Pride Agenda's legislative scorecard. After a meeting today with a Pride Agenda staffmember, Assemblyman Canestrari stated that he would support the newly-introduced marriage bill.

It's also the first time that any lawmaker has moved from a ranking of "5" (publicly opposed) to a rating of "2" (indicates support) since the creation of the scorecard. Canestrari is rated a "1" (publicly in support) on both the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the Dignity for All Students Act.

Press release on marriage bill from the Governor's office

April 27, 2007


Governor Eliot Spitzer and Lieutenant Governor David Paterson today submitted legislation to create civil marriage equality for all New Yorkers. This historic legislation would establish equal responsibilities, recognition, benefits and protections for all married couples. The bill would additionally stipulate that no clergy member or religious institution should be compelled to perform any same-sex marriage ceremony.

Under current law, partners unable to enter into a civil marriage -- and their children -- lack legal protections taken for granted by married couples. In such areas as property ownership, inheritance, health care, hospital visitation, taxation, insurance coverage, child custody and pension benefits, married couples receive important safeguards against the loss or injury of a spouse, and crucial insurance against legal intrusion into marital privacy.

“This legislation would create equal legal protection and responsibilities for all individuals who seek to marry or have their marriage protected in the State of New York,” said Governor Spitzer. “Strong, stable families are the cornerstones of our society. The responsibilities inherent in the institution of marriage benefit those individuals and society as a whole.”

“This bill guarantees that the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness will be protected equally for all individuals in the State of New York,” said Lieutenant Governor David Paterson. “This is an important step in the fight for civil rights for all people.”

The legislation will include the following provisions:

A marriage that is otherwise valid under the law will be valid regardless of the sex of the individuals;

Government treatment, legal status, and all rights, benefits, privileges, protections or responsibilities relating to marriage will be equal for all individual parties who enter into marriage regardless of the sex of their partner;

No application for a marriage license will be denied on the ground that the parties are of the same, or a different, sex, and;

In consideration of private, ethical and religious beliefs, no clergy member or religious institution will be compelled to perform any marriage.

Spitzer introduces a marriage bill

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Gov. Spitzer this morning will introduce a bill that would make it legal for same-sex couples to marry in New York State. The bill will be given to the State Senate and Assembly at 8:00 A.M.

Eliot Spitzer is the first governor in the country to introduce such legislation.

Sen. Tom Duane is also orchestrating a meeting this morning of gay leaders and State Senators (including Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith). Should make for an interesting meeting.

The New York State Dept. of Civil Service will also announce today that same-sex spouses of state employees (married in jurisdictions where gay marriage is legal) will be eligible for benefits. What this basically means is that any spouse of a gay state employee who was married in Canada, Massachusetts, Spain, South Africa, Belgium or The Netherlands will now be treated like any other married, benefits-eligible spouse.

Spitzer had announced on Monday that he would introduce marriage equality legislation before the end of the current legislative session (end of June). This news also comes five days before LGBT Equality & Justice lobby day in Albany next Tuesday, May 1. More than 1,000 LGBT people and straight allies will be in the capitol to lobby for the passage of the marriage bill, along with bills that would end discrimination based on gender expression/identity and protect New York students from bias-based harassment.

See a scorecard of where NY State Senators and Assemblymembers stand on marriage here.
See a timeline of building support for marriage in the Assembly here.
Send a "thank you" to Gov. Spitzer for introducing the marriage bill here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Crain's poll: 63% support marriage legislation

According to an online poll released today by Crain's New York Business, two-thirds of the 1,022 voters polled support Gov. Spitzer's plan to introduce marriage legislation. According to the story:

"About 63% of voters said they support a gay marriage law...Supporters also say same-sex couples should be afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples."

Only 18% said that "marriage is strictly between a man and a woman."

More proof that Spitzer represents a growing majority of New Yorkers in his commitment to pass a marriage bill.

Read the entire story here.

Morning Sweep

Metro New York points out that there are things that Gov. Spitzer can do all by himself to grant marriage rights to New Yorkers.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno implied that Spitzer's only priorities for this legislative session are abortion, same-sex marriage and campaign finance reform. Even though that's not true, last we checked those issues were supported by the majority of New Yorkers...

Latin America is slowly becoming more gay friendly.

Iowa's state House passed legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's civil-rights laws. The bill had already passed in the state Senate and now goes to Iowa's governor, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Domestic partnership legislation passes a committee vote in the Oregon State Senate, which will bring the bill to a floor vote. The Senate is expected to pass the bill and give it over to Gov. Kulongoski, who has already said that he'll sign it into law--possibly as early as next week.

New Hampshire's civil unions bill is expected to be signed very soon--which will make New England the first region in the U.S. where every state offers some measure of protection to same-sex couples.

The federal Hate Crimes Bill passed a House Judiciary Committee vote last night, which brings the bill to a floor vote.

A researcher in England has discovered text from an eighteenth century scroll detailing charges against a man who might be the oldest recorded gay rights activist.

**ADDITION: An LA Times sports writer comes out as a transgender person--in a newspaper column. A moving account of self-acceptance and the support he's found as he has begun his transition from Mike to Christine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A movement, not a moment

We knew from day one that winning marriage equality in New York State was going to be a step-by-step process. A commonly used phrase at the Pride Agenda is that this is “a movement, not a moment,” which means that people have to be allowed to understand the issue of marriage and then be moved to act in support of it.

That’s precisely what the marriage legislative scorecard represents. When we started, we knew that there were 35 NYS Assemblymembers in favor of marriage equality. We also knew that there were 24 Assemblymembers openly opposed to it, which meant that there were 91 individuals in the chamber who needed to be asked, perhaps guided or even persuaded to come around and see that marriage and the hundreds of rights and responsibilities that the state provides with it have a profound impact on New York’s LGBT couples and our families.

In less than six months, support for marriage has moved from the original 35 to the current 61 supporters. Perhaps even more interesting is that the number of those known to be opposed to marriage has only moved up one to 25.

What this proves is that when we as a community take time to educate our representatives, tell them our stories and ask them to act to end discrimination against our families, they overwhelmingly come over to our side.

The work isn’t done—we still need to get the support of the majority of the 150 Assemblymembers (15-20 more!). But the momentum is on our side and the results so far—especially given the timeframe—are very encouraging.

Timeline: building support for marriage in the New York State Assembly

JANUARY 2006 – JULY 2006

The following Assemblymembers were cosponsors of the 2006 marriage bill, introduced by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (D-Chelsea):

(Names in red print are no longer members of the Assembly)

Bing* (NYC)
Brennan* (NYC)
Cohen, A. (NYC)
Dinowitz* (Westchester)
Friedman (NYC)
Glick (NYC)
Gottfried* (NYC)
Grannis (NYC)
Hevesi* (NYC)
Hoyt* (Buffalo)
Lafayette* (NYC)
Lavelle (NYC)
Lavine* (L.I.-Nassau)
McEneny* (Albany)
Millman* (NYC)
Nolan* (NYC)
O’Donnell (NYC)
Paulin* (Hudson Valley-Westchester)
Peralta* (NYC)
Rivera, N.* (NYC)
Rosenthal* (NYC)
Towns* (NYC)
Weisenberg* (L.I.-Nassau)
Wright* (NYC)

(A. Cohen: retired)
(Friedman: lost primary)

The following Assemblymembers declared support for a marriage bill during the Pride Agenda’s 2006 PAC process:


Boyland, Jr* (NYC)
Bradley* (Hudson Valley-Westchester)
Brodsky (Hudson Valley-Westchester)
DiNapoli (L.I.-Nassau)
Eddington* (L.I.-Suffolk)
Farrell* (NYC)
Fields* (L.I.-Suffolk)
John* (Rochester)
Kavanagh* (NYC)
Lifton* (Ithaca)
Lopez* (NYC)
Lupardo* (Binghamton)
Miller (Hudson Valley-Dutchess)
Pheffer (NYC)
Pretlow* (Hudson Valley-Westchester)
Sayward (North Country)
Stirpe, Jr. (Syracuse)


Jaffee* (Hudson Valley-Rockland)
Sweeney* (L.I.-Suffolk)

(Lavelle: deceased)

The following Assemblymembers declared their support for a marriage bill during meetings with the Pride Agenda or in conversations with constituents:


Aubry* (NYC)
Benedetto* (NYC)
Lancman* (NYC)
Latimer* (Hudson Valley-Westchester)
Mayersohn* (NYC)
Spano, M. (Hudson Valley-Westchester)
Zebrowski (Hudson Valley-Rockland)

(DiNapoli: appointed New York State Comptroller)

MARCH 2007

Alessi* (L.I.-Suffolk)
Cahill (Hudson Valley-Dutchess)
Gianaris (NYC)
Gunther (Upper Hudson Valley)
Jeffries* (NYC)
Morelle (Rochester)
Ortiz* (NYC)
Weprin (NYC)

*On March 27, a Special Election was held in the 16th, 61st and 62nd Assembly Districts. The following two Assemblymembers declared their support for a marriage bill during the Special Election PAC process:

Schimel (L.I.-Nassau)
Titone (NYC)

(Zebrowski: deceased)
(Grannis: appointed Chairman of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation)

APRIL 2007

Carrozza (NYC)
Cook (NYC)
Diaz, L.* (NYC)
Englebright* (L.I.-Suffolk)
Hyer-Spencer (NYC)
Koon (Rochester)
Young* (NYC)

Total Assemblymembers in support of marriage as of April 25, 2007: 61

*Co-sponsors of the yet-to-be-introduced 2007 marriage equality bill

Morning Sweep

The suspects in the Michael Sandy hate crime/murder case tell their side of the story, insisting that Sandy's death was a robbery gone wrong. More here.

The lead the fight: wrangling over who will be the marriage bill's primary sponsor in the New York State Assembly.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) led the reintroduction of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the House of Representatives yesterday. He was joined by the bipartisan cast of Reps. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis) and Chris Shays (R-Conn). Watch the video here. NOTE: New York State's Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act was passed in December of 2002.

Episcopal Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori made it clear that she will continue to support the movement for LGBT acceptance within the Episcopal Church, while also saying that people needed to allow Anglican leaders in other, less progressive parts of the world time to grow and change their positions.

The United Methodist Church is also trying to overturn a ban on ordaining openly LGBT ministers, but the growing influence of their African delegations may put a damper on those plans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

GENDA passes Gov. Ops. Committee

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) passed the NYS Assembly's Government Operations Committee today. The bill, if eventually signed into law, would make it illegal to fire someone from their job or deny housing or credit (or other public accommodation) to someone because of how they express their gender.

Today's vote is a major step forward for GENDA, as the bill has not been brought to a committee vote since 2003. The bill had gained initial momentum as an amendment to the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), which passed in 2002. GENDA, however, stalled in committee in 2003 and hadn't moved again until today.

The bill now must pass the Codes Committee in order to then go to Speaker Silver and the Rules Committee, who can put it to a floor vote. Lot's of work still to be done, but today's vote is very encouraging.

Here's how today's vote went down:

Chair: RoAnn Destito (D-Oneida) - YES

Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx) - YES
Patricia Eddington (D-Suffolk) - YES
Sandy Galef (D-Westchester) - YES
Rory Lancman (D-Queens) - YES
George Latimer (D-Westchester) - YES
Margaret Markey (D-Queens) - YES
Marcus Molinaro (R-Dutchess/Columbia) - NO
Crystal Peoples (D-Buffalo) - YES
Bob Reilly (D-Albany/Saratoga) - YES
Joseph Saladino (R-Nassau) - NO

Morning Sweep

Gov. Spitzer's announcement yesterday that he will introduce marriage legislation by the end of the current legislative session has everybody talking (here, here, here, here, here and here). But the best, most complete write-up on the issue came from this editorial in the New York Times.

Part of passing a marriage bill in New York will probably involve turning the State Senate from a Republican to a Democratic Majority. Liz Benjamin points out some of Spitzer's early moves in making that happen.

Segolene Royal--one of the two finalists in France's presidential race--is a supporter of gay rights, including marriage: "Opening up marriage to same-sex couples is needed in the name of equality, visibility and respect." If only this country's candidates were so enlightened.

Urban Elephants (via an LA Times poll) reports that former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani is currently the #1 choice for Christian Conservatives, despite his somewhat liberal stance on social issues.

The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will be reintroduced today.

More hate coming out of the Vatican yesterday (yawn).

The much-anticipated "Big Gay Sketch Show" premiers on Logo tonight (10:00 PM).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Morning Sweep

The New York Times says that Gov. Spitzer will introduce a marriage program bill by the end of the legislative session. More here and here.

Pam Spaulding reminds us of New York State's junior senator's sometimes problematic position on the issue of marriage...but at least she's found her voice on the issue of gays in the military!

The Concord Monitor points out that the rights that come with marriage are sorely needed by same-sex couples in the twilight of their lives.

Washington's governor signed a bill over the weekend that would allow for same-sex domestic partnerships in the Evergreen State.

The NY Times notes a slight increase this month in requests for civil unions in New Jersey.

A transgender student is in the running for prom king in Fresno, California.

And mentioned in the NY Times article at the top of this list, the Pride Agenda will be bringing nearly 1000 LGBT people and straight allies to lobby their elected officials in Albany on May 1. There are only three days left to register! Do it now here.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A look at what's up in the NY State legislature

The Dignity for All Students Act easily passed (again) in the Assembly earlier this week (::crickets::crickets::). Unfortunately, no one really noticed. Maybe it's because this is the sixth year in a row that it has passed in the Assembly...and it's going to take a lot of work to move it in the State Senate.

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) is scheduled to be voted on in the Assembly's Government Operations Committee next Tuesday, April 24. GENDA is expected to pass in the committee, which would bring the bill to Speaker Silver, who can put it to a floor vote (a first for GENDA). The Pride Agenda's legislative scorecard shows more than a majority (84 to be exact) of Assemblymembers support the bill.

No news at the moment on the introduction of the marriage bill, but we think it's coming soon. As always, marriage is what's getting much of the buzz lately, so next week we'll be posting a timeline of how marriage has moved from 35 supporters in the Assembly last fall to 60 current supporters.

We'll leave the rest of this post to your comments--so until Monday, we leave you with a weekend open thread.

Morning Sweep

Happy Friday.

The New York Blade tells a story of pedicabs, lesbians and lobbying, featuring NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch announced yesterday that he would sign civil unions legislation if (more like when) it passes the State Senate, ending speculation that he may break with state Democrats on the issue.

The Oregon State Senate passed a sexual orientation non-discrimination bill. The bill now goes to Oregon's pro-LGBT Gov. Ted Kulongoski to sign into law.

150 of Connecticut's clergy members rallied in Hartford to urge the state legislature to pass marriage equality legislation. CT Gov. Jodi Rell has threatened to veto any such legislation, should it make its way to her.

USA Today notices the shortcomings of civil unions.

State University College at Oneonta hosted a panel discussion on the term "that's so gay" and concluded that the term "can be hurtful."

James Dobson--up to his tired, dirty old tricks again--is trying to pressure Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter to not sign legislation allowing gay couples to adopt.

Queerty examines the financials at PlanetOut...and provides a not-so-sunny forecast.

And our favorite headline of the day.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Morning Sweep

News that should not be overlooked: Gay City News reports that Hillary, Obama and Edwards all believe that the military should adhere to the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court ruling, which struck down all remaining sodomy bans.

Paul Schindler also pulls together all of the buzz on where the marriage bill stands with Gov. Spitzer and the NYS Legislature.

A major gathering of clergy from all 50 states rallied in Washington, D.C. to urge passage of the federal Hate Crimes bill. (a.k.a. the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act of 2007; a.k.a.,the Matthew Shepard Act.)

The Archbishop of Canterbury says that anti-gay bishops may be misinterpreting the bible.

Ben Smith makes a couple of interesting observations on how "out" Hillary is about her gay supporters.

Actor Farley Granger, a B-list celebrity of his era and star of two major Hitchcock films, openly discusses his relationships with men in his new autobiography titled "Include Me Out."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Protecting New York's students

New York State is lagging behind in the movement to protect public school students from bias-based bullying. Ten states have already passed measures that provide schools with important tools to deal with bullying and harassment on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and gender expression (among others). The New York State Assembly has passed the "Dignity for All Students Act" six years in a row, but the Republican-led State Senate has yet to act on the bill.

Today, students in schools across the country are taking a vow of silence to protest this type of harassment. Daryl Presgraves, a member of the GLSEN communications team, contributes the following call to action to The Agenda on this Day of Silence:

As hundreds of thousands of students take a vow of silence across the country today as part of GLSEN’s Day of Silence to protest the anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bullying, harassment, name-calling and discrimination that takes place in schools, the New York legislature will join them, though not in solidarity.

New York is one of 40 states that has chosen not to protect some of its most vulnerable students from bullying and harassment by passing a comprehensive safe schools bill that includes enumerated categories such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.

Students at nearly 400 New York schools registered through to participate in one of the largest student-led days of action in the country to send a message to their schools, communities and the legislature that the time has long since passed to recognize the injustices LGBT students and their allies face every day in school.

In a 2005 survey of New York students as part of the national Harris Interactive report, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, more than a third-of New York students reported that bullying, harassment and name-calling was a serious problem at their school.

Additionally, bullying and harassment based on how a person expressed their gender, or because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation was also very common. Fifty-seven percent of respondents reported that students were bullied or harassed at least sometimes because of the way they expressed their gender, and about a quarter (23%) said these behaviors occurred often or very often. More than five out of ten (52%) reported that students were harassed because they were or were perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual – even as only 5% identified as being so. About a quarter (24%) said these behaviors occurred often or very often.

The time has come for New York to speak up on such a crucial issue and recognize that protecting our youth in school is not only a common sense thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.

As students all across the state are asking today, what are you going to do to end the silence?

Morning Sweep

Today is Day of Silence.

State University College at Oneonta will be hosting a panel discussion on the widely-used phrase "that's so gay."

The hetero mayor of Madison and a few city council members have added a note of protest to their oath of office in response to Wisconsin's recent voter-enacted same-sex marriage ban.

The Oregon state House has passed two major pieces of pro-LGBT legislation: a domestic partners bill and a sexual orientation non-discrimination bill. The domestic partner bill would provide some of the same rights that married couples receive, but the legislation does not go as far as the civil unions laws in New Jersey or Connecticut. Both bills must now pass the state Senate and must be signed into law by Gov. Ted Kulongoski (who has already voiced support).

A gay fireman in Bellevue, WA is suing the city for the spousal rights (and respect) that he believes that he's entitled to (insert Joan Crawford quote here).

The special election to fill the vacant 65th Assembly seat (Manhattan--Upper East Side) has finally been called for May 22. Openly LGBT and reform-minded Democrat Micah Kellner is almost certain to win the election. The seat was formerly held by Pete Grannis, who was recently approved as the the NYS DEC Chairman. In his role as an assemblyman, Grannis was a great supporter of the LGBT community.

An interesting story in the Times today points out the night-and-day differences between Assemblyman and Senator Diaz (son and father, respectively). The younger is good on many LGBT issues (we don't know yet where he stands on marriage) and the elder is notoriously anti-gay.

***UPDATE: We have just learned that the Special Election in the 65th Assembly District will NOT be on May 22, as previously called. The new date is June 5.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Not Yet on Spitzer's Agenda

Liz Benjamin reports that, among the governor's newly announced legislative priorities, marriage is not yet one of them:

One notable issue that's missing from this list: Same-sex marriage.

During the 2006 campaign, Spitzer pledged to introduce a bill that would legalize gay marriage and also said he would sign such a bill into law if one ever reached his desk.

Asked why gay marriage didn't make the cut, Spitzer replied:

"There are many things that we will do in due course that are not on the list now. These are the bills that I think can and should be acted on in the next few weeks."

We are still, however, quite confident that, while not announced as a priority today, Gov. Spitzer will act on the issue...and soon.

Morning Sweep

A British football player pens an editorial in The Observer (London) calling on gay footballers to come out of the closet. The straight, 15-year veteran of the Premier league also donated his writer's fee to British LGBT advocacy org., Stonewall.

The Archbishop of Canterbury--the traditional head of the world's Anglican communities (including the U.S. Episcopal Church)--has been summoned to resolve the global rift that has been caused by Episcopal bishops in the U.S. accepting gay marriage.

As Oregon's state House takes up two pieces of pro-LGBT legislation, opponents turn out to protest en masse, shouting slogans like "Please Protect Me from Open Homosexuality" and "We Want to Raise Our Kids in Oregon, Not Sodom."

New Hampshire's Democrat governor may be why the civil unions bill has been delayed. The bill was previously on a fast track for passage.

For the first time in almost a decade, Colorado's sexual orientation non-discrimination bill has a chance to become law, thanks to recently elected and pro-LGBT Governor Bill Ritter.

A follow-up story in the NY Times on the role of circumcision in preventing H.I.V.

Schools prepare for tomorrow's national Day of Silence. This blog will feature a guest columnist tomorrow who will go into greater detail on the history and need for this nation-wide observation--and, of course, will put it into an Empire State context.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Morning Sweep

The New Hampshire civil unions bill passed a committee vote in the State Senate, leaving only an open senate vote and governor's signature for passage. The Hartford Courant reports on why NH presents a unique case in its debate over civil unions.

Better--but still not adequate--treatment of LGBT people (and their families) who work for the U.S. Department of State.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding Grey's Anatomy's GLAAD award for best episode. More importantly, however, was that both Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty were recognized with GLAAD awards--two shows that truly deal with LGBT issues in almost every episode. Congrats to them. (As a side note: HRC, The Task Force, GLSEN and GLAAD were all mentioned in last night's Brothers & Sisters)

Dallas may elect its first gay mayor, which would also be the first openly LGBT mayor of any of America's ten largest cities.

One of the doctors who was involved in the watershed 1973 petition to remove homosexuality from the APA's list of mental illnesses now warns that the future may bring new dangers to the LGBT community through advances in genetic technology.

The Netherlands' Supreme Court at The Hague has ruled that the semi-autonomous Dutch Caribbean islands must recognize gay marriages.

A local high school will host a televised debate between candidates for the open assembly seat in the 94th district (April 24 @ 7:00 PM).

Some angry words for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn from NYC AIDS activists. Also, apparently Speaker Quinn has been polishing her speaking skills.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Morning Sweep

Imus-palooza: Don Imus was fired from CBS. Andrew Sullivan throws his hat into the discussion, calling out the double standard in what he calls "rampant black homophobia." Harvey Fierstein agrees that there is a double standard. Gay City News says GLAAD should have been quicker join the Imus smack-down.

Chelsea, West Hollywood, South Beach, Castro...LoDo? The New York Blade says that Denver may be the up-and-coming urban gay enclave.

Happy 25th anniversary, GOAL! New York's Gay Officers Action League celebrates 25 years at their schmancy gala at Tavern On the Green next Friday.

Wisconsin, the first state to pass gay-rights legislation, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its sexual orientation non-discrimination law.

Several personal stories in a New York Times article tell why the parallel institution of civil unions is not cutting it in New Jersey.

Gay City News points out that, along with the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, the sodomy ban is still being upheld in the military and top Democratic presidential contenders remain silent on the issue.

The federal hate crimes bill has been reintroduced in the Senate by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) under a new name, the Matthew Shepard Act.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Get your lobby on

Because we're feeling especially grassrootsy on this soggy Thursday afternoon, we thought we'd share this little video on how to lobby your elected officials.

Part One:

Part Two:

More info on this year's LGBT Equality & Justice lobby day in Albany here.

Morning Sweep

Outbacks, Miatas and Mini Coopers, oh my! Gays and their cars in the New York Times.

A bill that would allow same-sex couples to adopt in Colorado passed in the State Senate, with the state's GOP saying it was part of the "homosexual agenda" to redefine the family. Colorado's only openly gay lawmaker, State Senator Jennifer Veiga, smartly responded to the "agenda" comment by saying: "Apparently I left mine up at the office and forgot what point we're on." Speak on it, girl!

In more news from the Centennial State: A 15-year old openly gay student was attacked by a group of peers in Pueblo, Colorado. Local law enforcement officials are not moving with any urgency to punish the perpetrators.

And because this is apparently the Colorado issue of the Sweep: Keith Boykin interviews Darrell Watson, a black and openly gay candidate for a Denver City Council seat.

New Hampshire's governor is silent on the issue of civil unions.

A California State Assembly Committee advances a marriage equality bill...which has already been doomed to failure because of Gov. Schwarzeneggar's promise to veto it.

NPR discusses a step-by-step approach to winning marriage equality.

It's "Gaypril" in Ithaca.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Morning Sweep

John Edwards announced that several prominent LGBT leaders have endorsed his presidential run, including fellow New Yorker and veteran political advisor David Mixner. More here.

Assemblymember Pete Grannis has officially resigned, paving way for likely replacement (and would-be fourth openly LGBT legislator in the NYS Legislature) Micah Kellner. The date for the special election has not yet been determined, but is expected to be called very shortly.

More negotiations on the language of two proposed pro-LGBT bills in Oregon, including changing the term "civil union" to "domestic partnership." Also, rather disturbingly, in the non-discrimination bill language was added to appease religious groups:

The revisions make it clear that faith groups, including those not tied to a specific church or denomination, could avoid hiring or serving people based on their sexual orientation. Language also was added to make it clear that religious schools, day-care centers, camps, thrift stores, book stores, radio stations and shelters are exempted.

There is still a possibility that one or both of the bills could be put to a public vote. More here.

A great column in the Boston Globe points out the lack of leadership on LGBT issues from those who are best suited to move hearts and minds.

MyLeftNutmeg shows us some of the more creative anti-gay arguments before the CT state Legislature during a discussion on the marriage equality bill. Couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!

Openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson spoke in favor of civil unions at a State Senate hearing in New Hampshire, arguing that same-sex unions do not threaten religion.

Steve Stanton, who was fired from his post as city manager in Largo, FL because he is transgender, plans to go national with his activism.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The need to act on GENDA

This week's Legislative Gazette features an articulate argument from Joann Prinzivalli, Director of the New York Transgender Rights Organization (NYTRO) on why it's so important to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).

The letter is written specifically in response to comments made by Dennis Proust, a spokesperson from the Catholic Conference; and the marginally-known Rev. Duane Motley from an organization ironically called "New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms."

In a March 26 Legislative Gazette article, Mr. Proust claims that GENDA would "force schools to hire teachers or landlords to provide housing to people who cross-dress." It doesn't take much dot-connecting to know that this is a twisted exaggeration of the truth. The bill would, in fact, make it illegal to fire a teacher or deny housing to someone just because of how they express their masculinity or femininity. And furthermore, using the term "cross dress" trivializes the lives and identities of these people.

This issue is not so new. In fact, nine other states have already made it illegal to discriminate based on gender expression/identity. And to answer Mr. Proust's assertions, there have been no coups staged in New Jersey schools by transgender teachers, nor has there been a disruption in the California real estate market because of transgender people looking for a place to live. The apocalyptic arguments are getting old.

Ms. Prinzivalli refutes similarly weak arguments presented by Mr. Proust and Rev. Motley in her letter below:

To the editor:

The views of human rights opponents expressed in the article about the reintroduction of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (“Bill would ban discrimination of transgender New Yorkers,” March 26, 2007, page 5) shows exactly how necessary it is for this bill to become law.

Dennis Proust of the New York State Catholic Conference ignores the Catholic Catechism in his opposition. Catechism Section 2358 provides: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” This is the Church’s official position on gays and lesbians. It should be understood as inclusive of the Church’s official position on transsexuals as expressed in a sub secretum document issued by the Vatican in 2000.

Duane Motley of the Orwellianly-named “New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom” thinks of transgender as immoral, reflecting his ignorance about sexual morality as well as constitutional freedom. Being transgendered has nothing at all to do with sexual activity, which may involve individual moral decisions, but instead relates to a person’s innate identity. It is as if Motley thinks that it is immoral for anyone to be a man or a woman.

Motley’s ignorance also shows in his mischaracterization of the teacher in Batavia, New York who is receiving the appropriate medical treatment for Harry Benjamin Syndrome, a medical condition and not a moral choice, and has absolutely no bearing on her performance in the classroom.

Both opponents make the offensive allegation that trans people are “confusing to children” as if we are monsters or subhuman creatures from whom children should be protected. Clearly the opponents do not give children any credit for intelligence. Indeed, that small minority of children who themselves are transgendered are harmed by those in society who seek to teach children that everyone is like Ozzie and Harriet. As a result, the child often feels confused, alone and isolated, as if he or she is the only person in the world who is like this.

Their erroneous views underscore the need we have for the protections afforded by this legislation, as well as the Dignity for All Students Act and Dignity for All Youth Act.

Joann Prinzivalli
Director, New York Transgender Rights Organization
White Plains

"Bill Would Ban Discrimination of Transgender New Yorkers" (Legislative Gazette: March 26, 2007)
Find more information on transgender issues in New York here.
Find more information on transgender issues nationally here.
Read the text of GENDA in the State Senate bill here.
Read the text of GENDA in the State Assembly bill here.

Morning Sweep

Same-sex couples are pressuring Rhode Island lawmakers to act on marriage equality legislation, but both the state House Speaker and Senate President oppose the bill.

Whaaaat? Andrew Sullivan complimenting HRC?

In the gift that keeps on giving...more from the McGreevey saga.

In an interesting piece in the NYTimes, some advocate for establishing guidelines on civility within the blogosphere.

Not-so-smooth sailing in Oregon as the state Legislature considers two major pieces of pro-LGBT legislation.

The Times Union rates Gov. Spitzer's first 100 days, focusing mostly on how the Spitzer administration has affected Albany's other big players.

The coming tax deadline again reminds us of the unequal share that our families are forced to pay because we are denied the rights and protections of marriage.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Stop by for one on Matt

New York's newest gay elected will be celebrating on Thursday at O.W. in Midtown East.

In case you don't have microscopic vision, the paragraph on the right says: "No donation required but accepted. Any donations should be made to "The Committee to Elect Matt Titone." Matt will buy everyone one drink to show his appreciation and O.W. will have drink specials all night."

O.W. Bar
221 East 58th Street (btw. 2nd & 3rd)
Thursday, April 12th (6pm - 8pm)

Morning Sweep

The AP reports on the difficulties that some black college students have in being out on historically black college and university campuses.

One of the Kevin Aviance attackers was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to the crime. Interestingly enough, the charge he plead guilty to was not classified as a hate crime.

A Federal District Court Judge has ordered a Florida school to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance, proving what this writer has always believed: better to live in Florida than in Utah (for now, at least).

Because it's still perfectly legal in many states for LGBT people to be fired from their jobs simply for being gay, lesbian, bi or transgender, the possibility of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passing is cause for excitement. Read about the history of the bill here.

The Oregon State Legislature will be debating key LGBT bills today, including an LGBT non-discrimination act and a civil unions bill. In California, legislation legalizing same-sex marriage is also expected to once again pass through the State legislature, with Gov. Schwarzeneggar again threatening to veto it.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed gay families wanting to take part--for the second year in a row--in the White House Easter Egg Roll. 75 tickets were secured for LGBT families this year.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Special Election in the 94th Assembly District

It's official: last night the Rockland County Democrats selected Kenneth Zebrowski, Jr. to run for the Assembly seat left vacant by his father, Ken Zebrowski, Sr., who passed away on March 18.

Zebrowski, Jr. will face Republican nominee Matt Brennan, a New City resident and former NYPD sargeant, in the May 1 Special Election.

The late Ken Zebrowski was a great ally of the LGBT community and a co-sponsor of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and the Dignity for All Students Act. He also indicated support for marriage equality legislation. We hope that his replacement will continue his good work.

Morning Sweep

David Mixner features a column by SLDN Exec. Director Dixon Osborn on the likely repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The New York Blade thoroughly covers the record budget allocation to the NYS LGBT Health & Human Services Network. More about the budget here.

Advocacy groups in New York expect to see action in the New York State Legislature on three major pieces of pro-LGBT legislation this year, according to the NY Blade. These bills are: the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), the anti-bullying bill called the Dignity for All Students Act, and the marriage equality bill. You can also see where each NYS Assemblymember and Senator stands on all three issues here.

A nice round-up of the state of LGBT rights legislation across the counrty by the Washington Blade.

Much ado about foreskin: in response to the apparently large amount of feedback to yesterday's circumcision story (more here) in the Times, the Empire Zone has posted a response from the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene. Blabbeando begs to differ with the recommendations of the UN/WHO and cites Brazil's findings on the issue.

Geoffrey Stone pens a thoughtful column on the Huffington Post, noting the "shift in public attitudes" on various gay issues. He references a recent report put out by Third Way, a progressive think-tank.

And finally, on a hopeful note on this Good Friday: a transgender Air Force veteran runs for city council seat in Aurora, Colorado.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Paul Schindler says "Go to Albany!"

Gay City News EIC Paul Schindler makes a very compelling argument for showing up in Albany on May 1 for LGBT Equality & Justice Day (full disclosure: E&J Day is organized by the Pride Agenda):

"Gender identity bias and school anti-bullying measures will be part of that day's agenda, but marriage will clearly be at the top of the list. A unified front on marriage--including the governor and all leading legislative proponents standing behind a bill introduced in both the Assembly and Senate--would provide a wonderful tonic to enliven the grassroots advocacy.

But nothing is more important than an energized community proving to the elected officials that they have placed their bet on activists and citizens interested in winning."

Read the full editorial here.
Register for Equality & Justice Day here.

...and a few words from State Senator Tom Duane, courtesy of the multi-talented folks at Good As You. You can see even more of the July 6, 2006 Rally on the Day of the Marriage Decision at Sheridan Square in NYC by visiting G-A-Y.

In case you missed it...

This video debuted at the Pride Agenda's 2006 Fall Dinner (October), but we only now got around to posting it on YouTube. Better late than never.

There are some great moments in this video, including an extremely moving personal account of why marriage equality is so important for us and our families. You'll also see a couple of familiar faces towards the end.

Let us know what you think!

Morning Sweep

Often at the center of the gay marriage debate, children raised by same-sex couples now tell their side of the story in a Seattle Times article.

NYS Comptoller Tom DiNapoli signed off on the state budget. That's good news for LGBT people.

New York City may be turning to circumcision as a method to slow the spread of H.I.V. in minority communities.

A not-so-warm welcome for Soulforce at the not-so-tolerant Bob Jones University

Democratic presidential contender Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) spoke in favor of civil unions to a group of high school students in Concord, NH yesterday. He also said, however, that he "didn't support gay marriage." It's a nice start, but we hope that the Senator will eventually see that seperate is still not equal.

Also in New Hampshire, the state House passed a civil unions bill yesterday by a vote of 243-129.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Morning Sweep

CapConf superstar Liz Benjamin is leaving the Times Union to replace Ben Smith at the Daily News and will be running their Daily Politics blog. Huge pick-up for the Daily News. (Capitol Confidential)

Indiana's proposed bill banning gay marriage was killed in committee yesterday (Towleroad)

SUNY Oneonta will host an educational/awareness panel discussing the apparently en vogue phrase "that's so gay." (Press & Sun-Bulletin)

Because no one in this country pays attention to them anymore, Westboro Baptist Church has gone and pissed off the Swedish Royal Family, calling King Karl Gustav all kinds of not-so-nice gay slurs because of his support for gay rights in Sweden. (NY Sun)

Mexico may be more liberal than the U.S. on marriage equality. (USA Today)

In Saudi Arabia, living a life of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is apparently seen as a beacon of hope for gay people in the Middle East. (Wall Street Journal)

Pam posts Out Magazine's "Top 50 Gays"...some, uh, interesting choices... (Pam's House Blend)

Page Six points out an ugly side of Julia Child. (NY Post)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 did the budget accommodate LGBT people?

Many LGBT health and human services organizations across New York State depend on assistance both from the Governor’s executive budget and the Assembly Majority’s discretionary fund each year to keep their doors open. We learned today that, in addition to Gov. Spitzer’s $6 million executive budget allocation (announced in January), the Assembly Majority has contributed another roughly $1.3 million and Gov. Spitzer added another $675,000 to fund members of the New York State LGBT Health & Human Services network. The roughly $8 million total is a 60 percent increase from the highest previous amount provided by the state to these essential organizations. This is a big (and needed) boost for New York’s LGBT support services.

More here on what kinds of services these orgs provide.

Morning Sweep

The Politico features a nice profile on the work of the Family Pride Coalition and its executive director, Jennifer Chrisler. The article also touches on the work of her partner, former HRC President Cheryl Jacques.

The Hartford Courant advocates for replacing civil unions with full marriage equality for same-sex couples in Connecticut.

The California Supreme Court now gets the spotlight in the courtroom battle for marriage equality. Good As You provides a brief history of this case in the California courts. Californians can thank Arnold Schwarzeneggar for this protracted legal fight--he could have ended the debate by simply signing into law a marriage equality bill that the state legislature had passed in 2005.

San Francisco officials support lifting Cali's gay marriage ban (natch).

In an example of corporate leadership, the Meredith Corp. (publishes Ladies' Home Journal, Family Circle, Better Homes & Gardens, etc.) is advocating for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression non-discrimination language in Iowa's Civil Rights Act.

NOTE: Meredith's New York employees are already covered by New York's sexual orientation non-discrimination act, which passed the NYS legislature in 2002. New Yorkers are NOT yet, however, protected from gender expression/identity discrimination, but a bill that would outlaw such discrimination was introduced last month in both the State Senate and Assembly (for the fifth year in a row).

Monday, April 2, 2007

Replacing Grannis on the Upper East Side

Now that Pete Grannis has been approved by the NYS Senate to chair the DEC, his assembly district in Manhattan’s Upper East Side is up for grabs (probably in a May 1 special election).

In all likelihood, the seat will go to Micah Kellner, currently an aide to NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson. If elected, Kellner will be the first openly bisexual member of the NYS Assembly (continuing a recent run of historic elections for LGBT people). Kellner runs on a reform platform, endorsing many of the “fix Albany” reforms that Spitzer touted during his gubernatorial campaign. He’s also said that he strongly supports the forthcoming marriage equality bill.

For the record: As an assemblymember, Grannis was excellent on LGBT issues. We thank him for his many years of support and wish him luck in his new role.

Morning Sweep

The AP writes about a new film project meant to educate about hate crimes based on sexual orientation. Reminds us why Rep. Conyers' hate crimes bill is so necessary.

The Sunday Times featured a fantastic piece about a CT family dealing gracefully with the coming out of a then 13-year old member of the family.

Edge Magazine in Boston writes about the impact that gay bloggers are having on the movement.

Stressing diversity, the New York State Democratic Party has changed the way that Presidential delegates are selected, including setting aside a specific number of delegates representing LGBT people.

The Post reports that newly elected NYS Assemblyman Matthew Titone's (D-Staten Island) partner of ten years remains closeted at work for fear of prejudice. Read more about Titone's recent victory here.

In a column in the Hartford Courant, Harvey Fierstein explains why civil unions are "un-American." We agree. The Times adds their two cents, as well.

A weird tidbit from the Golden State: a recent poll shows that more Californians are in favor of legalizing gay marriage than legalizing ferret domestication. While the poll is less-than-scientific, the percentage of those supporting marriage isn't so encouraging: just 43 percent (with 38 percent supporting the ferrets).

Welcome...and a bit about us

Welcome to The Agenda: a blog edited by the communications team of the Empire State Pride Agenda. We’ve started blogging because we hope to shine a few additional rays of light and add perspective on the issues and people that operate in the heavily congested intersection between LGBT communities and New York State politics. Sometimes serious and sometimes irreverent, we hope that this blog will be a source of information, conversation, debate, sometimes entertainment and occasionally even the fire that ignites action, if necessary.

Sometimes we’ll be a catch-all for what we consider to be relevant news, other times we will try to explain/put in our two cents on a complex issue that impacts gay people. We’ll live-blog important events; have guest writers contribute their thoughts on issues like religion, the workplace and elections; and even break news, from time-to-time. We’ll also take you into the “back hallways” of politics as-we-know-it so that you might get a better idea of how the LGBT community is viewed, represented and ultimately advanced within the Byzantine power structures of New York State.

While the geographical focus of The Agenda is primarily New York, we will often comment on the world beyond the Empire State (yes, it does exist). Federal issues certainly affect the New York gay community, as do trends set by other states and sometimes even other countries. It’s also important to see what our allies and adversaries are saying in other places so that we can learn from them and be better prepared to win future battles.

The Empire State Pride Agenda is the leading civil rights advocate in New York State for the LGBT community. The Agenda is an extension of the organization, but not necessarily a lock-step mouthpiece. The purpose here is to both contribute to and receive feedback from those who are interested in this conversation. We’re really excited to be entering into it. We hope you’ll stop by often, let us know about something that we should be checking out, and tell us how you feel about the issues and people discussed on these pages.