Monday, November 30, 2009

Morning Sweep

We hope you had a happy Thanksgiving! Here's an update on some of the news over the holiday:

The New York Times reports that the passing marriage could play a favorable role in the state's budget crisis: NY could expect to take in more than $50 million a year in new revenue from the legalization of same-sex marriage, from a combination of marriage license and tourism revenue.

Activists in New Jersey are lobbying for marriage there.

The L.A. Times writes forcefully against the "Manhattan Declaration," an anti-gay letter released last week by a group of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders.

The government of Portugal may soon legalize marriage for same-sex couples.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance Panel and Vigil in the Capital District

The Pride Agenda's Transgender Rights Program Organizer Ejay Carter reports back from our recent Transgender Day of Remembrance event:

The Empire State Pride Agenda
worked with In Our Own Voices, the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council, the NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA) and local advocates Moonhawk River Stone and Jaye McBride to host a Transgender Day of Remembrance Panel and Vigil in Albany on Wednesday, November 18, 2009. The event, held at the First Congregational Church in Albany, drew 85 attendees, including transgender activists and allies from both the Pride in the Pulpit and Pride in Our Union programs.

Panelists included the family members of Lateisha Green, a young African-American trans woman shot and killed in Syracuse in 2008; Moonhawk River Stone, a longtime transgender advocate and educator; Julia Hall, Outreach Project Director for NYSCASA; and Tara Ramsey, a member of In Our Own Voices and survivor of hate violence. Ejay Carter, Transgender Rights Program Organizer for the Pride Agenda, moderated as panelists discussed their experiences--both personal and professional--with bias crimes and violence, including prevention measures. Each of the speakers spoke on ways in which their lives had been touched by violence, and yet each focused on the importance for transgender New Yorkers of being free to be who we are, regardless of transphobia and other forms of hate and discrimination.

Following the panel, attendees were
led in a vigil for victims of bias crimes based on gender identity and expression by the Reverend Diane Marquit, and volunteers read out loud the names of those who had perished as a result of transphobic hate crimes in the last several years. While it was a solemn occasion to remember those who have lost their lives to bias crimes, participants also took the opportunity to come together and think about ways to move forward. Conversations around legislation followed the vigil, and participants signed letters in support of the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would prohibit discrimination against transgender individuals in New York State. These letters, along with close to 2,000 others collected in the past several months, will be delivered to Senators in the coming weeks.

To learn more about transgender rights in New York State and to get involved in working to pass the GENDA bill, please contact Ejay Carter, the Transgender Rights Organizer at 518-472-3330 x306 or

Morning Sweep

New Jersey's marriage bill has an uncertain future. And NOM is at it again, this time in the Garden State, where they're taking their hateful lies to the airwaves.

FBI data released Monday showed that hate crimes based on sexual orientation rose by nearly 11 percent in 2008, while the number of overall reported hate crime incidents increased by about two percent.

Rulings last week by two federal judges that the U.S. government must extend benefits to the same-sex spouses of federal employees may be paving the way to these benefits being granted.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Morning Sweep

Hundreds gathered at the vigil in Manhattan on Sunday evening for Jorge Mercado, the openly gay teen who was brutally murdered in Puerto Rico.

Two men have been indicted on hate crime charges in the June assault on a transgender woman in Queens.

U.S. Senator from NY Kirsten Gillibrand has been phoning State Senators to ask them to support the marriage bill.
A legislative session begins in New Jersey today, and the marriage bill could be on the agenda.

The Associated Press covered memorials held on the Transgender Day of Remembrance last week.

Legislative hearings on the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will likely be postponed until next year.

The New York Times editorial board urges D.C. legislators to work with local Catholic charities to find a way to accommodate their needs so they will continue to provide services if same-sex marriage legislation is passed--but not to compromise on legislators' commitment to civil rights in the process.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Morning Sweep

New York's top court yesterday rejected the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund's legal challenge that sought to take away some government protections granted to same-sex couples married in other jurisdictions and now living in NY.

Liz Benjamin explains what the ruling means for LGBT New Yorkers.

Some D.C. Council members are attempting to reach a compromise with the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington so Catholic Charities will not end its social services contracts with the District if marriage equality is extended to gay couples.

The New York Times writes about schools adjusting their dress codes to accommodate the changing times, including students whose clothing of choice isn't traditional for their gender.

Gender verification test results have been determined for Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old South African runner who made headlines for having her gender questioned by sports officials, but they won't be made public. “We urge all South Africans and other people to respect this professional, ethical and moral way of doing things,” officials said.

Pride in Our Union: Pride and Solidarity in Action

The Pride Agenda's Upstate Director of Pride In Action Sheilah Sable reports back from our recent Pride in Our Union event:

The Pride in Our Union program held an educational forum for LGBT union members, staff and leaders and their allies on Saturday, November 14th at the CUNY Murphy Center in New York. The forum was called “Pride and Solidarity in Action.”

There were over 40 LGBT union activists and allies from a dozen different unions: CSEA, UFT, 1199 SEIU UHWE, 32BJ, Local 375 DC 37 AFSCME, UUP, CWA Local 1180, NYCDCC Local 157 and Local 926, RWDSU, NYSUT, Local 2110 UAW and SSA/1199 SEIU.

The first panel covered Best Practices for Union Benefits, and included a discussion about marriage recognition, domestic partnerships and trans health care led by James Staley of CSEA Local 010 and Chair of CSEA’s New York City LGBT Committee, Nicole Aniello of the Brooklyn Local 926 of the New York City Carpenter’s Union, and Pride Agenda Program Director Desma Holcomb.

Mid-day, there were small group conversations around how to navigate challenging discussions among union members, where issues of religion, race, homophobia, transphobia and other areas of cultural competency can be a challenge. Kevin McGruder, a lay leader member of Pride in the Pulpit and Kele Nkhereanye, an activist from Less AIDS Lesotho and a member of TWU 100, were instrumental in keeping the conversation productive and on point. Danny Jimenez of the Education and Development Department of 1199 SEIU and Pride Agenda Foundation Board member, Jeff Oshins of DC 37/Local 375’s Labor and Political Activity Committee and Co-Chair and Secretary of LAGIC (Lesbian and Gay Issues Committee), and Neil Kirby of CSEA Local 010 and Chair of the Political Action Committee, lead these discussions.

Finally, we heard about solidarity: how the LGBT movement can support union folks in campaigns for fair wages and social justice and how unions have supported the LGBT movement for marriage equality, transgender non-discrimination and an end to bullying in schools. Rona Freiser, Queens Borough Representative of UFT, described how support for LGBT issues starts with classroom teachers interrupting bullying and extends through resolutions in support of legislation right up to direct lobbying by the NYC and now national union President Randi Weingarten. Phil Andrews, Coordinator of the Retail Action Project of RWDSU, demonstrated how a campaign for fair wages and decent treatment at a downtown retailer forged mutual respect between young LGBT retail clerks and older Muslim African immigrant stock workers. Pride Agenda and LGBT movement support for this kind of campaign builds a stronger labor movement that can give more powerful support to LGBT issues as well.

Pride in Our Union encourages unions in all sectors of the labor movement in New York State to be free of discrimination and to bargain and advocate on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members and their families. In solidarity, we work to build a movement that calls for respect for diversity and advances the goal of social and economic justice for all. You can download our Labor Movement Handbook of best practices here or contact Pride in Our Union coordinator and Upstate Director for Pride in Action Sheilah Sable at

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Morning Sweep

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has ruled that a proposed measure aimed at banning marriage equality in the District cannot go on the ballot because it would violate the District's Human Rights Act. The Council will vote on marriage on Dec. 1.

Legal delays on ENDA could delay the legislation from being voted on until February.

Police say that a suspect has been arrested in the slaying of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, a 19-year-old openly gay Puerto Rican man who was found decapitated, dismembered and partially burned on Friday.

The Washington Post laments the closing of The Washington Blade, the 40-year-old LGBT news publication.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Morning Sweep

The President of the New York State Bar Association penned a letter to the editor in support of passing the marriage bill.

City Hall profiles Jimmy Van Bramer, one of the two new, openly gay NYC Council members from Queens.

The New York Times City Room blog writes on SAGE's efforts to provide support for LGBT caregivers of elderly family members.

The Times also profiles Sara Buechner, a successful classical pianist who came out as a transgender woman after having established herself as a musical professional.

California LGBT rights group pushing to return marriage to the ballot in 2010 have kicked off their campaign to collect petition signatures.

A gay couple was granted a marriage license in Buenos Aires on Monday after a judge ruled that a ban on gay marriage equality violates Argentina's constitution.

Monday, November 16, 2009

2009 Transgender Day of Remembrance

Friday, Nov. 20 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a national day established in 1998 to memorialize transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who have been killed because of who they are. The Day of Remembrance is also a day to raise public awareness and increase education about anti-transgender violence, and it’s a chance to renew our commitment to ending the prejudice and discrimination that leads to these crimes.

There are events taking place across New York State, and the Pride Agenda will be attending many in an effort to continuously raise awareness about transgender issues and to build support for the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA). We hope that you will join us at one of these events--click here to find one near you. In addition, to find out more about how you can get involved with the GENDA coalition in efforts to pass New York's transgender non-discrimination legislation, contact Pride Agenda transgender rights organizer Ejay Carter at or 518-472-3330 ext 306.

Buffalo News calls on Senate to pass the marriage bill

Yesterday, The Buffalo News called on the State Senate to pass the marriage bill. The powerful editorial is below.

Approve gay marriage

But there is a gift that members of the New York Senate could bestow upon many of their fellow citizens, one that has the rare political benefit of not costing their taxpayers, their interest groups — even their long-suffering constituents — a single thing.

The Senate should approve the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. The Assembly already has passed it. Gov. David A. Paterson is primed to sign it. Justice demands it. And no single person in the state of New York will, despite what many fervently believe, be any the worse for it.

When the state performs any function of civil authority, it must do so in a way that plays no favorites. Clearly, for the state to officially recognize an opposite-sex marriage between two consenting adults while refusing that same recognition to two same-sex partners is an act of discrimination that serves no legitimate state purpose.

The government's proper role in marriage is to register and, if necessary, enforce the contract entered into by two self-aware adults. If the couple lives happily ever after, the state's role is limited to that of dutiful file clerk. If not, the state may be required to step in to settle disputes involving property, support and custody of minor children.

The role of the state in settling such problems, though far from perfect in practice, does help non-working spouses or dependent children survive a dissolution, financially if not emotionally. Sexuality has no bearing on that function.

Opponents of same-sex marriage make much of the fact that, when the question was put to voters in liberal California and libertarian Maine, both states rejected it. But those votes, driven in no small part by scare tactics, are not good examples for an elected Legislature to follow.

In California, opponents falsely argued that churches would be forced to give their support to same-sex marriage if the state did. In Maine, the largely out-of-state campaign focused on the shibboleth, futilely refuted by the state's attorney general, that schools would be forced to "teach" same-sex marriage if such a thing existed in the Pine Tree State.

A state law recognizing gay marriage would govern only the actions of the state. No church would be required to sanctify a union it objected to. No school would be forced to sing its praises by that law.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in several nations, including Canada and the United Kingdom, and in five U.S. states, from New England to Iowa. Harm to opposite-sex couples, their children and their households, there or anywhere: Non-existent.

A gift that costs the giver nothing. Sounds tailor-made for New York politics.

Morning Sweep

The New York Times points out yet another area where same-sex couples are disadvantaged without legal marriage: the difficulty of last name changes.

An AP video report on marriage in New York features a poignant quote from a local NYC couple: "We share what I consider to be a great love and a great commitment and devotion to each other. And I think that when all is said and done, that should be all that matters."

The New Jersey Daily Record urges the state to pass a marriage bill soon so Gov. Jon Corzine can sign it before he leaves office in Jan. Corzine will be replaced by anti-marriage Republican Chris Christie.

The American Medical Association voted this week to pass resolutions declaring that bans on same-sex marriages contribute to health disparities; and to oppose "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Morning Sweep

In a radio interview earlier this week, Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle discussed the Senate Majority Leadership's commitment to vote on marriage before the end of the year, saying: "I don't believe they would have reached that agreement with us if they didn't have consensus within their membership about it. I believe the commitment they made. I believe it was sincere, that they want to address this issue before the end of this year, and I have every reason to take them at this year."

Gay City News summarizes the work that led up to the Senate Majority Leadership's commitment for a vote by the end of 2009.

Gay City's Paul Schindler writes that now is "no time for retreat" on our issues.

Democratic leaders in Congress may try to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as part of next year’s defense authorization bill.

Connecticut celebrated one full year of marriage equality yesterday. The state has so far married 2,291 same-sex couples.

Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Charities, a Catholic organization that contracts with the state to provide social services, has threatened to sever it's ties with the District if same-sex marriage is passed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Morning Sweep

Last night after the special session of the Senate ended, Gov. Paterson announced that an agreement has been reached to have a vote on the same sex marriage bill at "a date not certain between now and the end of the year." The Senate Majority conference has pledged to commit their time and energy to making marriage equality a reality in the state of New York. Read the Pride Agenda's Action Alert on the commitment here.

Same-sex marriage passed its first hurdle in D.C. yesterday when the Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary voted 4-1 to send legislation to the full council for debate. The council is expected to take up and pass the bill early next month.

Salt Lake City became the first city in Utah yesterday to enact an LGBT-inclusive employment and housing non-discrimination ordinance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Marriage on the Senate agenda TODAY - Email and call now!

As you already know, Gov. Paterson has put the marriage bill on the State Senate’s agenda for TODAY, November 10. Just yesterday in his address to the joint session of the legislature, the Governor reiterated his support for our community and his desire to see the marriage bill become law.

Now we need supporters of the marriage bill to reach out to our Senators and make sure our families are in their thoughts as they head to the Senate floor. Click here to email your Senator. You can also use the click-to-call tool below to call him or her now.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Morning Sweep

Gov. Paterson has put marriage for same-sex couples on the State Senate's agenda when they return to Albany on Nov. 10. Read the Pride Agenda's statement on this here.

As a result of Tuesday's election, four members of the New York City Council will be openly gay -- more than ever before in the council's history.

Two men have been arrested in an allegedly anti-gay hate crime in Long Island.

Marriage advocates in New Jersey are angling for a vote on marriage before supportive Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office in January. Corzine was defeated by anti-marriage Republican Chris Christie in Tuesday's election.

The votes are still being counted on Washington state's Referendum 71, but the measure is expected to pass. The expansion of rights for same-sex domestic partners will mark the first time a state's voters have approved an LGBT equality measure at the ballot box.

The New York Times' Economics blog covers the special economic needs of transgender people in a surprisingly engaging way.

Andrew Sullivan gets down to the root of anti-marriage equality activists' common tactic of exploiting some parents' fears about the misconception that marriage for gay couples could affect school curriculum.

Jeremy Hooper's explanation of why losing in Maine is so infuriating is the perfect short, passionate and eloquent expression of the feelings of so many in the LGBT community and their allies.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Morning Sweep

LGBT leaders in New York remain optimistic about the possibility of a marriage vote in the State Senate.

Flatbush Senator Kevin Parker is calling on the State Senate to bring marriage equality to the floor.

Defeat in Maine has led many in the LGBT community to begin questioning current strategies for winning equality.

A NYC taxi driver is facing possible disciplinary action after kicking two men out of his cab for hugging.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Morning Sweep

As yesterday's election results still pour in, same-sex marriage advocates react with grief and anger over the loss in Maine.

Numbers are still too close to call on Washington's domestic partner benefits, but seem narrowly in favor of passing the measure.

Good news out of Kalamazoo, MI -- the city has voted to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its non-discrimination policy.

In other results, Michael Bloomberg, a supporter of marriage for same-sex couples, has won a third term as mayor of New York City. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a marriage supporter, has also lost to Republican challenger Chris Christie.

Activists in New York celebrate a win in the 23rd Congressional District, where Democrat Bill Owens has defeated Republican Douglas Hoffman in a district that has had Republican representation for over a century. The win repudiates claims that marriage was a wedge issue for voters in this district.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday that it's 2006 ban of marriage for same-sex couples and civil unions was unconstitutional. The court is expected to rule on the issue by next summer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Morning Sweep

LGBT advocates anxiously await today's results on Question 1 in Maine.

Some believe that regardless of the outcome in Maine, marriage for same-sex couples is coming soon to several states.

New Census data shows more similarities between same-sex and opposite-sex families.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Morning Sweep

The New York Times editorializes on current political battles for LGBT rights, and highlights New York as a "particularly frustrating" situation: "We do not have a precise head count. But we suspect that once the bill got to the floor, a majority of the Senate’s 62 members would recognize that same-sex marriage is a fundamental civil right. Continuing to delay a vote shows disrespect for New York citizens injured by the status quo. The time for a vote is right now."

A Brooklyn trial judge has found that a transgender non-biological parent has custody rights in a dispute over the child he has helped raise.

Chris Christie, a Republican challenger for governor in New Jersey, is attempting to use marriage equality as a wedge issue in the 11th hour.

As expected, Obama has announced that the 22-year-old ban on travelers with HIV coming to the U.S. will been lifted.

The U.S. Department of Justice has argued in court papers in the lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts that states allowing same-sex couples to marry can't force the federal government to provide protections to those couples because of DOMA. Although this position runs contrary to the Obama administration's desire to repeal DOMA, the DOJ has an obligation to side with Congress and defend any reasonable laws they pass.

Tomorrow's vote in Maine will decide whether the state will accept or reject marriage for same-sex couples. But Maine Gov. John Baldacci, who supports marriage for same-sex couples, says he doesn't see this as a national issue -- he's "just thinking about Maine."

The ballot measure in Washington regarding domestic partnership benefits has brought attention to the nature of petitions and whether the names of their signers should be a matter of public record.

Much attention is also being paid to tomorrow's vote in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where voters will decide whether to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's non-discrimination ordinance.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a longtime vocal advocate for LGBT equality, has dropped his bid to become governor of CA.