Thursday, December 16, 2010

What the Senate outcome means

Post by Ross D. Levi, Executive Director, Empire State Pride Agenda

It’s becoming clear that there is going to be a change in leadership in the New York State Senate to the Republican Party. Some have speculated that this means an end to progress we will be able to make on LGBT issues here in New York, but I couldn’t disagree more.

We know that as a result of this election we start two votes ahead on marriage equality from where we were before, and have additional support on other issues like the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and adequate funding for LGBT health and human services. Even more significant is the way this progress was achieved: In a state where incumbents win 98% of the time, we unseated two decades-long anti-LGBT incumbents – one Democrat and one Republican. Senators new and old will now be asking themselves whether they want the strength of our community used against them in the same way two short years from now if they vote against equality for their LGBT constituents.

Also, let’s not forget that the Pride Agenda and the LGBT community have achieved great things with both parties. Two of our most significant legislative victories – the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act and hate crimes legislation – were passed with a Republican senate and a Republican governor. The environment for passing marriage and GENDA is even better than it was then.

We have a strong governor who was outspoken on our issues from day one of his campaign, and he will be joined by other statewide officials who were equally outspoken in favor of our issues. Contrast that to how things went for Carl Paladino. Legislators with ambitions for higher office have to realize that for the past two election cycles, no one has won any statewide office in New York without being expressly pro-LGBT. Maybe that’s because the public is on our side, with 58% of New Yorkers saying they favor marriage equality for same-sex couples and upwards of 70% believing New York should have a law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people.

Our community is coming out of this election cycle strong. We know we have a clear and credible opportunity for victory in 2011, but we also know we have a challenging session ahead of us. The economy and state budget are likely to loom large in Albany for the months to come, so we need to do the hard work of making sure our elected officials understand the importance of our issues, and ensuring that the next time our bills come up for a vote that they succeed.

  • We need to highlight business leaders who will remind legislators that New York’s economy misses out on approximately $184 million that flows instead to neighboring states where marriage is permitted for same sex couples.
  • We will raise up high profile faith leaders in support of marriage equality like Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, Bishop Robert Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, and add to their numbers.
  • We will encourage our friends in law enforcement, the women’s movement and the business community to counteract the myths around basic civil rights protections for transgender people and remind elected officials that our state is falling behind the private sector in banning discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
  • We will continue to remind our government officials of the state’s critical role in meeting the health and human service needs of New York’s LGBT community through policies, programs and resources.
  • We will mobilize and add to our 2.5 million New York brothers and sisters in unions that support marriage equality and GENDA.
  • We will make sure our representatives in Albany hear in person from their constituents by the hundreds, both at home in their districts and in Albany at our Equality & Justice Day in early May.

Won’t you be part of the important work we have to do in 2011? Victory is ours for the taking, but it will not be possible without you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Industry leaders take on “same-sex couples tax”

Posted by Bradford Menoche, Pride in My Workplace Coordinator

Many companies offer domestic partner benefits for their LGBT employees as a way to extend benefits more fairly to all their employees. However, the federal government imposes a tax on the value of the benefits the domestic partner receives, unlike married heterosexual couples, who receive an exemption from this tax. The tax is added to the employee’s paycheck by adding the cost of the benefits package to the employee’s paycheck as imputed income. Imputed tax is the amount that is due on the additional imputed income. The tax averages over $1000 a year, but can quickly rise depending on the cost of the benefits package. The cost is typically the combined amount that the employee contributes, plus what the employer contributes for the coverage.

This is an example of how the federal government’s rejection of same-sex marriage directly impacts our everyday lives. However, some companies have stepped forward to put an end this inequality for their gay and lesbian employees. Google made a big splash in June when they announced that they would start reimbursing their gay and lesbian employees for the so called “gay tax”. While they may not have been the first company to do this, their high profile definitely brought a lot of attention to the issue.

Now, just 6 months later, the list of companies offering the “true up” or “gross up” benefit is growing. Although the list is still relatively small, it contains several industry leaders and the list is growing each day. The Pride Agenda and HRC recently sent out a press release in support of Barclays, a major financial industry leader, who recently announced their policy change because when an industry leader makes a big change like this, there is often a domino effect. Barclays, like others, knows that being a leader on LGBT Workplace issues can create a competitive advantage for top talent, which is a goal for every company.

The current list of companies offering this benefit includes: Cisco, Kimpton Hotels, Morrison and Foerster, Bain and Co., Boston Consulting, Gates Foundation, Facebook, as well as Barclays.

Breaking News: McDermott, Will & Emery announced yesterday that they will also be reimbursing their Gay and Lesbian employees for imputed taxes. The Pride in My Workplace Program recently gave an Equality@Work award to Lisa Linsky, who is, among other things, the Partner-In-Charge of Firm-wide Diversity at McDermott.

We will be covering this topic at a Business Leaders Series event next year. This is the kind of “best practice” that the Pride in My Workplace Program promotes through its Best Practices Guide, Lunch and Learn events and educational panels. Please email me (bmenoche AT prideagenda DOT org) if you would like to get on the Pride in My Workplace distribution list or if there is a way that the Pride Agenda can partner with your organization to support you with the changes you want to make at your workplace.

Tara Siegel Bernard, who contributes to the New York Times Bucks blog also featured this exciting new trend. Check out her post: Facebook to Reimburse Gay Workers for Benefit Tax.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hope for 2011

As you probably heard last week, a generous couple, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Freedom to Marry Political Director Sean Eldridge, have put forth a challenge to our supporters around our work for marriage equality. They have pledged to match every gift made to the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation now through the end of the year up to $50,000. That means that every dollar that our supporters donate will go twice as far. I am so honored that Chris and Sean have shown their confidence in the Pride Agenda with this amazing donation. Will you join them and be part of our efforts to win marriage equality in New York?

The funds raised through this extraordinary effort can make the difference in the hard work that lies ahead in 2011. We know the best way to build support for marriage equality is through engaging our community and our allies -- nurturing welcoming communities of faith, celebrating LGBT members of unions, and helping workplaces affirm and support LGBT employees. These efforts build a solid base of supporters who will stand by our side when the going gets rough.

The work in the coming year won't be easy -- our fights never are -- but by pledging your support and meeting the challenge set by Chris and Sean, we will have the tools to build support among our staunchest allies, face obstacles head on and win!

  • Through our Pride in My Workplace program, we are working with businesses and trade groups around the state to demonstrate that during these difficult economic times, marriage equality is good for New York and good for business, from helping employers attract great talent to our state to serving as a multi-million dollar economic development tool for a myriad of industries like hospitality and tourism.
  • As the result of our Pride in the Pulpit program, leaders of faith have been among our strongest allies in recent years, with over 500 signing a letter in support of marriage for same-sex couples. These faith leaders are now working to ensure that all of their colleagues, including high-profile clergy across the state, will speak out on our behalf.
  • In our Pride in Our Union program, we continue to broaden our reach to rank and file union members across the state who strongly support access to marriage for their LGBT union brothers and sisters. Already, unions representing over 2.5 million working New Yorkers have passed resolutions in support of marriage equality.

I have been inspired by the outpouring of leadership from these communities and many others, and their dedication to our work. The voices of all New Yorkers, LGBT and allies alike, are crucial to growing the consensus about why marriage equality matters. The Empire State Pride Agenda has a 20 year record of delivering concrete results for New York State's LGBT community. Be part of our next victories by helping us today!

Don't forget -- every dollar you donate today goes twice as far. Help fuel the fight for marriage equality across our great state -- from Buffalo to Montauk, from Poughkeepsie to Potsdam. Every New Yorker deserves equality!

Onwards to Justice!

Ross D. LeviExecutive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

PS: Our allies are so important in our fight. If you are inspired to give today, please consider passing this message on to friends and family to stand by our side. We need all of their support!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Join us - A message from Chris Hughes & Sean Eldridge

As the end of the year nears, organizations like the Empire State Pride Agenda take stock of the support they've received in order to plan for the year ahead. And here in New York, there is a lot of work ahead in 2011.

With a pro-marriage equality Governor and majority public support, we have an opportunity to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in New York. But it won't be easy.

To implement the field, lobbying, and communications strategy needed to win, the Pride Agenda needs our support.

That's why we're committing to match every tax-deductible donation made to the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation between now and the end of the year, up to $50,000. Will you join us and make a donation of $25 or more today?

By giving today, your donation will be doubled -- your gift of $25 will immediately become a $50 contribution, your gift of $50 will immediately become a $100 contribution -- to fuel the campaign to win marriage equality in New York.

We met in 2005 while living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Though we were young, we knew that we had found something special. Over the following years, work and school took us through numerous states, but we're now proud New Yorkers.

And like so many same-sex couples living in New York, we dream of the day when we'll share in the freedom to marry the person that we love. We hope to raise children and build a family in New York, but we know how difficult that will be without the rights and protections that come only with marriage.

Marriage matters. Whether it's the critical safety net of rights, protections, and responsibilities or the simple desire to celebrate love and commitment with friends and family, marriage touches every aspect of life. And the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is one of the harshest inequalities still inflicted on LGBT New Yorkers.

It's time for New York to join the five states and District of Columbia that have already ended the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and made families safer, while hurting no one. And the Pride Agenda is the only state organization capable of doing the work that's needed to end marriage discrimination in New York.

We're matching contributions because we know that victory will only come when all New Yorkers who believe in fairness and equality contribute their time, their resources, and their voices to this important cause. We hope you'll join us in supporting the Pride Agenda at this critical moment. Every dollar contributed will go to work immediately and fuel the fight to secure the freedom to marry for all loving and committed New Yorkers.

Will you join us in helping the Pride Agenda in this critical fight here in New York?

Thank you,

Chris Hughes & Sean Eldridge
Co-Founder, Facebook, and Founder, Jumo; Political Director, Freedom to Marry

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Transgender Americans: Young and old; in the workforce and in our families

Recent news stories have highlighted breakthroughs and challenges for transgender Americans, both young and old, in the workforce and in our families. As he begins his transition journey, Kye Allums has gotten approval to remain on the George Washington University women’s basketball team. Like many in the college generation today, his teammates came around pretty quickly, supporting their coach’s decision to be inclusive. To help high school and college athletic programs navigate a world in which more transgender students are coming out, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and It Takes a Team! have co-published a guide for schools,which was cited in the New York Times article.

That same week, a Huffington Post column by Joanne Herman highlighted the challenges coming up for an earlier generation of transgender people as they age, often bringing the legacy of unemployment, under-insurance and mistreatment by health care providers into their final years. This story shows how urgent equal employment opportunity is for transgender Americans. The Pride Agenda is working to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in New York State as soon as possible.

That urgency heightens the significance of the breakthrough last week by Victoria Kolakowski, who won her election as California’s Alameda County Superior Court Judge—the first transgender trial judge in the country. Unfortunately, it is all-too-common for transgender people to lose their jobs when they transition.

A moving story in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine makes passing reference to the likelihood that an emerging transwoman, who teaches music at a Catholic school in the Bronx, will lose "his" job. But the focus of that story is on the journey of this transwoman’s sister, from resistance to acceptance, as her “brother” becomes her “sister.”

Everyone who is in circle of a transgender individual – family, friends and colleagues - goes through their own transition along with them. Indeed, inclusive workplace policies and trainings have a broad impact. Both our Pride in My Workplace and Pride in Our Union programs provide the trainings that can support not only transgender employees, but also the employees and union members who are family and friends of transgender Americans.

Post by Desma Holcomb, Program Director

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Election Day was step 1 -- Now we take the struggle to them!

Voting is something you do maybe a couple days a year. Politics is what happens every other day.

Thanks to you we made some important wins on Election Day, and sent the message loud and clear to all elected officials that supporting our community is good politics. We're operating under a new political reality and our work is far from over.

We can't stop now if we are going to achieve LGBT equality and justice in New York State. We're planning face-to-face meetings with legislators from across the state, both at the Capitol and in your district. Will you commit to meeting with your legislator face to face?

We know from experience that these in-person meetings are our most effective strategy for appealing to the head, heart and nerve of our elected representatives. We've seen it in assemblymembers and senators from both political parties who changed their position after meeting with constituents: Nothing beats sharing your own personal story and explaining how New York's unfair laws affect you personally, or the life of someone you care about. We can't let one senator or assemblymember in Albany think that supporters of LGBT equality and justice don't live in their district, or that they needn't serve all their constituents.

Won't you join us at an in-person meeting with your legislator to share your story? Election Day was just step one. The struggle continues, and now we take it to them...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Message delivered to whomever is in power

To figure out what last night's elections here in New York mean for LGBT equality and justice requires more than a mere head count of how legislators will vote on our issues. A message has been sent and delivered to candidates and elected officials. People in power must contend with a new political calculus: equality is the winning message in New York.

  • The tide turned on gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino just when he went after LGBT New Yorkers.

  • Every statewide official elected yesterday was vociferously outspoken in support of LGBT equality and justice from the beginning of their campaigns, including marriage equality.

  • In races that the LGBT community strongly targeted, we saw three anti-equality Senate seats—Republican, Democrat and open—shift to pro-LGBT supporters, with wins for Tony Avella, Tim Kennedy and David Carlucci.

  • New Yorkers elected another LGBT legislator, the first from outside New York City, Assemblymember-elect Harry Bronson.

These victories are testament to the power of the LGBT community and send a strong message. Those in power now know what they have to do: follow our many allies in the Senate and Assembly who have stood by us in the past.

Every elected official has learned that opposition to LGBT rights is bad politics. This message wasn't sent by accident. The change in the game often happened through the unsexy—sometimes intentionally quiet—work on the ground.

Through the Pride Agenda's canvass in Queens in the heat of the summer when no one was watching, we knocked on over 10,000 doors to identify new supporters of LGBT equality and lay the groundwork for Tony Avella's victory. In fact, yesterday's compelling new direction for Senate District 11 came after two years of work on the part of the Pride Agenda. In the weeks leading up to the election, we were able to send these hard-hitting mailers to all the supporters we had identified in the district to hammer home incumbent Padavan's opposition to marriage equality and basic protections for all LGBT New Yorkers.

In Buffalo, Pride Agenda staff and volunteers had hundreds of individual conversations with people in the district to identify new supporters of LGBT equality and did phone banking and mailings to hundreds of local constituents. In both races the Pride Agenda devoted staff members to the campaigns, and we initiated innovative voter registration efforts that signed up thousands of new local college-age voters. These new voters—most of whom wouldn't be captured in pre-election polling—gave us a strategic advantage over opponents who weren't counting on this new influx of younger voters who could be decisive in what we knew were going to be tight races.

Elected officials have heard loud and clear the lesson we've known for some time: in New York, equality is the winning message, and to be against the LGBT community is bad politics. Whatever political party may be in power in the months ahead, our legislators now have no choice but to respond to this new political reality. Together with you, the Pride Agenda will be forcefully reminding our elected officials of this truth, and we can't wait to get started. Please join us.

Onward to justice,

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Check out these hard-hitting mailers we sent for Tony Avella


Victories for equality and justice -- You made it happen

The LGBT community worked hard to have our voices heard in this election.

We're thrilled to report victories for our statewide endorsements: Andrew Cuomo for Governor, Bob Duffy for Lt. Governor and Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General. At our Fall Dinner, Andrew Cuomo said that he wanted to be "the governor who makes marriage equality a reality in New York State." As Attorney General, Cuomo worked closely with the Pride Agenda to fight transgender discrimination in employment and to defend New York's policy of fully respecting the legal marriages of same-sex couples performed out of state. In Rochester, Mayor Duffy has consistently supported measures to ensure that LGBT residents have the same rights and privileges as all other city residents. As a State Senator, Eric Schneiderman has also been a tireless advocate for the rights of LGBT New Yorkers and our families, and he is committed to continuing that support and advocacy as Attorney General and just acknowledged our longtime partnership by thanking the Empire State Pride Agenda by name in his victory speech.

In addition to contributing to these statewide victories, the LGBT community played a significant role in electing pro-equality State Senators.

In particular, the elections of Democrat Tony Avella in New York's 11th Senate District, Democrat David Carlucci in the 38th Senate District and Democrat Tim Kennedy in the 58th Senate District are significant steps forward for LGBT equality and justice.

In this election, we showed candidates of all parties that when they support us, we will support them, and when they do not support us, we will hold them accountable. In fact, in the primary for the Democratic nomination in the 58th Senate District, Pride Agenda endorsed Tim Kennedy over an incumbent who had voted against marriage equality.

We sent the message to candidates running for office in our state that working toward equality for LGBT New Yorkers is not only the right thing to do, but is also politically prudent.

Finally, the victory of gay Assembly candidate Harry Bronson -- our first LGBT legislator from outside of New York City -- is another reminder that voters all across New York State believe in fairness and LGBT equality. While Bronson campaigned on a wide range of issues important to his community, his election also represents another step forward for all who support equality and justice for New York's LGBT families. Having members of our community in elected office, sharing their lives with their constituents and legislative colleagues, makes an important difference in changing hearts and minds.

Along with our allies, we demonstrated that we will strongly support those who stand for equality and that we will mount serious challenges to those who do not. In the months leading up to the election, the Empire State Pride Agenda did canvassing in key districts across the state to have tens of thousands of individual conversations and to identify supporters of LGBT equality, phone banked and mailed our tens of thousands of supporters, placed paid staff and volunteers in key campaigns and initiated voter registration campaigns that signed up over 4,000 new college-aged voters.

We will continue to share our victories with you as they happen. Thank you for your work!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Message from the Executive Director: Now it's up to you

As we've said time and time again, today's elections will set the pace for our movement for years to come. We've shared with you our election guide, and we've urged you to share it with your friends. Many of you got involved in key races by donating your time and resources. Today it comes down to you and the simple act of voting.

Every vote will count today. Don't sit this one out, or let anyone who cares about you miss their opportunity to cast a ballot. The stakes are too high and we can't expect anyone else to do our work for us.

The polls are open until 9:00 PM tonight. If you forgot to vote this morning, it's not too late. Don't wake up with regrets tomorrow; do your part for LGBT equality and justice today.

With gratitude and hope,

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tomorrow will tell the tale

Tomorrow is Election Day -- one of the most critical election days in recent memory that will literally determine whether New York's LGBT community achieves our pressing victories in one year or five.

Polls are showing airtight races for statewide offices such as Attorney General and Comptroller -- where we've endorsed Eric Schneiderman and Tom DiNapoli respectively. Newspapers are speculating on the power balance in the State Senate. The truth is that anything could happen tomorrow. So we need two things from you and all our other supporters:

  1. VOTE! Download and print the latest version of our election guide and take it with you to the polls. Make sure you know where to vote.
  2. SPREAD THE WORD about how important these elections are. Do all your friends and family know what this election will mean for you? Share our election guide on Facebook and Twitter to get them the information they need.

Empire State Pride Agenda staff and volunteers have been working around the clock, supporting local campaigns on the ground and through phone banks to get out the vote and ensure success in these elections. After tomorrow, we'll know a lot more about what kind of strategy we will need to win marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections for transgender New Yorkers. Today, please think about who you know who may not turn up to the polls tomorrow. What can you do to get them there?

You can follow us on Election Night on Facebook and Twitter, where we will be bringing you updates throughout the night on key races throughout New York State.

Tony Avella for Senate volunteer canvass

Post by communications coordinator George True Simpson

Saturday I decided to volunteer on a race I care about: Tony Avella for State Senate. Empire State Pride Agenda’s PAC has endorsed Avella and he’s facing a decades-long incumbent who voted against marriage for same-sex couples and even SONDA, basic nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay and bisexual New Yorkers. Along with my canvassing partner Gustavo, I knocked on many doors in Queens and mostly spoke with supporters, which was encouraging.

I joined volunteers from many other groups representing choice, labor and other movements. The candidate joined us all for a pre-canvass rally to share some inspiring remarks and to remind us all about what this race means.

Pride Agenda’s volunteers, Brad Menoche, Erin Drinkwater, Desma Holcomb and Lynn Faria with Tony Avella in the middle

If you want to volunteer on the campaign of a Pride Agenda-endorsed candidate for the final stretch, you can find a list of volunteer contact information on our website.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't forget the Empire State Pride Agenda's voter guide on Election Day

Some of the most critical elections for LGBT equality and justice are upon us. This Tuesday, November 2, New Yorkers will be choosing who will lead our state in the years to come. The future of marriage for same-sex couples and basic protections for transgender New Yorkers is in their hands -- and yours.

You may have received our election guide in the mail listing our endorsements for pro-LGBT candidates. Our endorsed candidates have committed to use the power of their offices to push for the issues that matter most to our community. But we need your help to get them elected. You can download and print our most recent voter guide here. Take it with you to the polls Tuesday and share with everyone you know who believes in equality and justice for LGBT people.

Even if you're frustrated with electoral politics, that's all the more reason to stand up for equality and justice on Election Day. Too many races are too close to stand idly by. We know we can count on you to vote on Tuesday and get us one step closer to a more fair and just Empire State.

PS -- Get Out The Vote! Our endorsed candidates could really use a helping hand this weekend to get out the vote in key regions. We've compiled a list of volunteer opportunities and contact information for some key campaigns close to you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sen. Hugh Farley denounces GENDA and marriage: "abhorrent"

Incumbent Senator Farley opposes marriage for same-sex couples and GENDA, the most basic of civil rights protections for transgender New Yorkers. Empire State Pride Agenda's Political Action Committee is endorsing challenger Susan Savage. Won't you help us get out the vote this weekend for Susan and other pro-LGBT candidates? GOTV opportunities >

Check out this shocking video of Farley speaking at an event organized by extremist anti-LGBT lobbyist group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms where he calls marriage "abhorrent" and dismisses GENDA, saying: "I won't even get out of my chair. NO."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Your Check List for Election Day 2010

One week from today New Yorkers from Long Island to Buffalo will be voting in an election that analysts of all political stripes predict could be a major game-changer. In a volatile election year with so many tight races between LGBT allies and vocal opponents, we can't afford to suffer an enthusiasm gap from our side.

What will you do over the next seven days to take us over the finish line?

1. Check our endorsements for the pro-LGBT candidates in your district.

2. Find your voting location and put Election Day, Tuesday, November 2 on your calendar.

3.Talk to your friends and family and ask them to vote on Tuesday, November 2 for pro-LGBT candidates. Ask them to do it for you. Don't take anyone for granted. Every vote counts.

4. Volunteer with us on a key campaign. Join Pride Agenda staffers and volunteers out in the field. Find an opportunity that works for you.

5. Support pro-LGBT candidates with a gift to Empire State Pride Agenda PAC. Your contribution could make the difference. Help us counteract the flow of anti-LGBT funding flowing into our state from the National Organization for (straight only) Marriage.

These elections will literally determine how quickly we can achieve marriage equality and the most basic of civil rights for transgender New Yorkers. They will also determine if we can hold onto funding for the LGBT health and human services upon which so many New Yorkers desperately rely. Who do you want representing YOU in Albany?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gains are seen for LGBT candidates

The LGBT community could use better representation at all levels of government. This year there’s a potential to increase the number LGBT state legislators, with two new potentials. Harry Bronson and Brian McGrath, both running for Assembly, would be our first LGBT state legislators from outside of New York City.

One piece of good news this election year is the growing number of transgender people across the country who are running for political office (and have won elections in recent years). The New York Times has profiled some of these candidates and elected officials, including Alameda County Superior Court Judge candidate Victoria Kolakowski who said, “I want people to know that we are capable of being everything.”

We also need transgender people in elected office here in New York. Transgender New Yorkers are still deprived of their basic civil rights and face intrusive burdens in obtaining certain state services. There’s nothing like having a seat at the table to make change happen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Long Island Update: elections, a new video, our community forum and more

Post by Long Island Program Organizer Joanna Solmonsohn

Long Islanders have been playing, and will continue to play, a major role in the fight for the passage of marriage equality and the Gender Expression Non-discrimination Act. Here’s a rundown of recent past events and upcoming ways to get involved!

This month is LGBT History Month. Help celebrate it by working to achieve LGBT equality and justice on Long Island. There is much work to be done in anticipation of the General Election on November 2 and many ways to get involved.

Re-elect Brian Foley

Join the Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York , HRC and the GLBT Democrats of Suffolk County as we work to re-elect Senator Brian Foley. Senator Foley voted “yes” on the marriage bill and has expressed public support for the Gender Expression Non-discrimination Act. His vote in support of marriage is being used against him. Our community must not allow attacks based on pro-LGBT votes to hurt fair-minded candidates in the 2010 elections. Senator Foley was willing to stand up and do the right thing for our community, and now our community needs to stand behind him to ensure he remains in office and continues fighting for our community.

Let’s show Long Islanders that LGBT people and our allies are a strong, united force that is willing and able to make a difference.

When: Sunday, October 24 and on election day, Tuesday, November 2
Beginning at 11am

Where: Senator Brian Foley’s Campaign Office
81 Carleton Avenue, Central Islip

RSVP: Joanna Solmonsohn, 516.993.4623, jsolmonsohn AT prideagenda DOT org

While you’re at it, check out this video about Sen. Foley, made by our friends at Marriage Equality New York.

Long Island marriage education program

In addition to our electoral work on Long Island, the Pride Agenda is engaged in identifying marriage equality and transgender civil rights supporters and a marriage equality education program.

The marriage education program, entitled Marriage Equality and Families, was created and developed in conjunction with our Pride in the Pulpit Program. The goal of the program is to connect with Long Islanders especially those who are skeptical about marriage equality or who think that same –sex marriage has little to do with them. The program is in the form of a panel discussion. Same sex couples share stories about their lives and families in order to bring a personal perspective to this issue, help people explore their own thoughts about marriage equality, and provide a venue for them to ask questions about a topic that they may not know a lot about.

If you would like to invite the panel to speak at your congregation, club meeting, or university, please contact Joanna Solmonsohn at 516.993.4623 or jsolmonsohn AT prideagenda DOT org.

Report from Community Forum

On September 23, the Pride Agenda hosted a community forum in Hauppauge. Joining our new executive director Ross Levi for a dialogue about the work being done to achieve LGBT equality and justice on Long Island were Cathy Marino-Thomas from Marriage Equality New York and James Fallarino from Equality Long Island. Members of our community had the chance to share their ideas about the work being done on Long Island and the best ways we can work together going forward. Much discussion centered on the importance of the upcoming election and engaging allies in our fight. Watch a recording of the webcast.

Watch a special message from Billy Porter

One time opportunity for supporters of the Pride Agenda...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Andrew M. Cuomo for Governor

Today the Pride Agenda PAC is announcing our support of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo for New York State Governor for his commitment to fighting for civil rights, ending discrimination and achieving true equality for all New Yorkers.

As attorney general, Andrew Cuomo has been a great champion for the LGBT community, working closely with the Pride Agenda to fight transgender discrimination in employment and to defend our state's policy of fully respecting the legal marriages of same-sex couples performed out of state. This proven record is bolstered by Andrew Cuomo's commitment to working as governor to secure marriage equality, a statewide transgender non-discrimination law and policies, programs and resources to address the health and human service needs of New York's LGBT communities.

In accepting our endorsement, Andrew Cuomo said:
"I want to be the governor who makes marriage equality a reality in New York
State," said Andrew Cuomo. "New Yorkers believe that their neighbors should be
afforded the same rights and privileges under the law that they receive. I will
work with our leaders in the legislature to achieve passage of the Gender
Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and with our state agencies to eliminate health
disparities for LGBT New Yorkers. I thank the Pride Agenda for its endorsement
of my candidacy, and I look forward to continuing our terrific partnership into
the future."

All New Yorkers who care about LGBT equality and justice should support Andrew Cuomo. The election is less than two weeks away, and we're working hard to elect him and the rest of our pro-LGBT endorsed candidates. Join the fight at our Online Election Center where you can:
If Andrew Cuomo is going to achieve our LGBT priorities, he's going to need strong allies in the legislature and in statewide offices at his side. There's so much you can do to help us get out the vote over the next two weeks!

(Photo: Gay Socialites)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Transgender Women Stand Up for Their Rights

Within the last week, two different transgender women appeared in the press because they had filed lawsuits over discriminatory treatment they had received. At first glance, these women seem worlds apart: one is a prison inmate suing a NYC correction officer for harassment and rape in the Manhattan Detention Complex, the other is a retired police officer and 2008 women’s Long Drivers of America champion, suing for the right to participate in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), which has the requirement that all competitors be “female at birth.” But both are trying to get basic respect and dignity. Furthermore, the kind of employment discrimination that the professional golfer is experiencing is pervasive for transgender people and is connected to the lack of employment and economic survival options that land too many transwomen in jail. (You can see hard data on transgender employment, poverty and homelessness in New York in our LGBT Health and Human Service Needs Assessment.)

Most importantly, what these two different women have in common is the guts and determination to fight for their rights. That is what it took to win the NYC and California non-discrimination laws that these women are fighting to enforce. That is what it will take to win and enforce a statewide transgender non-discrimination law in New York. Join this campaign >

Posted by Desma Holcomb, Program Director, Empire State Pride Agenda
Photo: NYT/Bang Golf

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another pro-LGBT voice in the State Senate

It's now a little more than two weeks from Election Day and already we are picking up more support for LGBT equality in the New York State Senate. In a special election in Queens last March, we helped to replace anti-gay state senator Hiram Monserrate with Jose Peralta, a strong advocate for LGBT New Yorkers.

In a video that we're releasing today, Senator Jose Peralta is introducing another vote for marriage equality, GENDA and other bills that provide equality for LGBT New Yorkers. That vote is Mike Gianaris, currently an assemblyman from Queens, who has been a long time supporter of our issues. Gianaris will be replacing retiring Senator George Onorato, who voted against marriage equality last year.

Watch Senator Jose Peralta introduce Mike Gianaris. With these two champions of equality, we're already two votes closer to passing bills like marriage equality and GENDA.

There's more work to be done. We need every New Yorker who cares about equality to help us work from now until Election Day to make sure we have more elected officials like Jose Peralta and Mike Gianaris who will stand up for our community. You can help out by volunteering on a campaign in your area and by giving to the Pride Agenda's PAC. With your support, we can make sure that the best candidates get the resources they need to win.

Please consider making a donation to the Pride Agenda PAC today!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Angry about Paladino?

Turn anger into action -- Pledge to Vote on November 2
Everyone's talking about candidate for governor Carl Paladino's recent comments attacking the LGBT community before an audience of orthodox rabbis in Williamsburg, Brooklyn:

"That's not how God created us. . . . I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don't want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option—it isn't."

In light of recent stunning anti-gay violence in the Bronx and a rash of suicides by LGBT youth across the country, The New York Times called his remarks "utterly gratuitous" and said that they suggest "at the very least an extraordinary level of insensitivity." The Washington Post called them a "stunning display of tone-deafness and bigotry."

What are you going to do about it? Don't just sit there and shake your first at the television screen or grumble into your newspaper.

Take our "Pledge to vote" in the November 2 General Election for all candidates — those running for statewide office and those in the NYS Senate and Assembly — who support our equality and have committed to supporting our issues. And ask everyone you know who is offended by these insults to do the same. The upcoming elections must be our number one target to send the message that in New York State we hold our elected officials up to a higher standard. They also clear the way to proactively push for major priorities like marriage and transgender civil rights.

Join us and sign the pledge. If you're angry like us, you can't afford to sit this election out.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pride Agenda Condemns Statements by Carl Paladino Calling Lives of LGBT People Not Valid

Ross D. Levi, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda and Foundation, released the following statement:
“In the wake of the hate crimes sweeping New York State, including the sickening abuse and torture experienced by three young men in the Bronx last weekend, and the rash of LGBT youth taking their own lives all across our country, it is unfathomable that Carl Paladino could espouse the homophobic position that the lives of gay New Yorkers are not as valid as his. Law abiding, tax-paying LGBT New Yorkers, and parents of LGBT children, should not have to worry that their governor will be siding with those who feel we are less than, that we are second class citizens living less valid lives than our neighbors. Apparently, Carl Paladino is fine with schools teaching that sentiment as well, and believes that to teach otherwise is brainwashing. Fortunately, what Carl Paladino calls brainwashing most New Yorkers call getting along.

Will every New Yorker who fails to meet Carl Paladino’s personal morality code have to worry about being deemed invalid? Our extraordinary diversity is part of what makes New York great, and we will all need to work together to address the challenges we face in the coming years. This will be far harder if New Yorkers are divided or distracted by a governor and a government who are making judgments about whether or not some law abiding citizens are leading ‘valid lives.’

Carl Paladino seeks to be governor, but by confirming anti-LGBT sentiments, he shows that he is clearly not cut out to be the leader of our state. New York needs a governor who is committed to equal treatment and equal respect for all its citizens, not one who finds a whole segment of the population he would be representing to be invalid and dysfunctional. The days of elected officials refusing to give LGBT people the dignity and respect we deserve as citizens are long over. We expect and demand better from those who seek to represent and lead our great Empire State.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another tragedy

Reports are emerging of the tragic suicide today of a Rutgers freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge, after classmates without his knowledge broadcast on the internet video of him in an encounter with another male (New Jersey Star-Ledger, North Jersey Record).

This is on the heels of similar tragedies in California and Texas.

Our hearts go out to the student and his family. It's our hope that as more states pass protections such as the Dignity for All Students Act, more students and communities will become aware of the life-threatening costs of this kind of bullying and harassment.

Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 Wedding March

Yesterday Pride Agenda volunteers and staff joined the 2010 Wedding March, coordinated by our partners at Marriage Equality New York and a coalition of groups and leaders from across the state.

Here’s a picture of Miss New York, Claire Buffie, with our executive director, Ross Levi. Claire is being honored at our annual Fall Dinner, and is also helping us fundraise by selling t-shirts on her blog.

Check out more coverage from the inspiring demonstration from New York Daily News.

Thank you so much to all our volunteers who gave up their Sunday in support of marriage equality!

"National Organization for Marriage" and "New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms" ramping up efforts in New York State

Two anti-LGBT extremist groups are ramping up their efforts to demonize our community and prevent loving, same-sex couples from ever getting married in our state. Will you help us hold our ground and elect pro-LGBT candidates in November?

"New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms" (NYCF) is back at it. The out-of-touch, right wing Albany lobby that even fought against the widely-supported Dignity for All Students Act to prevent bullying and discrimination in public schools, is organizing a fundraising tour, going around the state spreading lies about LGBT New Yorkers and our families. The DC-based group National Organization for Marriage (NOM) organized their own smear tour last summer, including a poorly-attended rally in Albany.

NOM is now back in our state, and their latest tactic has dire implications that go far beyond our movement. Last week they filed a lawsuit bringing a constitutional challenge to New York's democratically approved campaign finance laws. They are seeking to draw from a network of anonymous anti-marriage donors from across the country to spend vast resources infusing our elections with the politics of division, all without any public accountability whatsoever.

The people of New York deserve to know who is influencing our elections and why. Groups like NOM have no right to come to New York and try to covertly undermine our elections while the Pride Agenda and everyday New Yorkers follow our state's duly-established laws.

This lawsuit — and lawsuits we've seen like it across the nation — have sweeping implications for democracy and election transparency. We've seen the right wing try to hide the identities of people who petitioned to put a domestic partnership ban on the ballot in Washington State, and hide the identities of donors to the marriage bans in California and Maine.

The anti-LGBT industry is trying to cast themselves as the victim again, but LGBT people have been demonized by these people for too long to let our neighbors be fooled. We carry out our campaign in the light of day, while they work in the shadows, hiding their donors and spreading misinformation. In the end, we can prevail on election day, but only with your help.

Please make a donation to our Political Action Committee, to help our allies who voted for marriage and support transgender non-discrimination. We need to make sure these pro-fairness candidates have the resources they need to counter the misinformation used against them by groups who have no interest in playing by the rules.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Moving On, and Moving Forward

Reflections from outgoing Transgender Rights Program Organizer Ejay Carter

Any time one makes the decision to leave a current job and move on, it’s an opportunity to reflect. Over the past two weeks, I’ve thought a great deal about the work that I’ve participated in at the Pride Agenda, and how it’s part of the continuum pushing for equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers.

Over the last two years alone we have accomplished an incredible amount of work to further the GENDA Campaign to secure basic civil rights for transgender New Yorkers. We have hosted statewide GENDA strategy meetings, countless conference calls, collected and hand delivered well over 3,000 letters, hosted 3 call-in days with national participation, lead or participated in at least a dozen panels, had a well attended GENDA Advocacy Day, partnered with organizations such as Housing Works to continue lobbying efforts, created new advocacy materials such as the Mythbuster and Trans Experiences and recruited hundreds of new individuals to the campaign. And those are just some of the highlights. There have been in-district meetings, person-to-person conversations in labor and faith communities, and in a myriad of other places. This doesn’t even cover our push within state agencies to further transgender inclusion and equality.

I’ve had the pleasure of traveling across the state to meet advocates, both professional and volunteer, who have dedicated their lives and time to working for equality in various legislative campaigns, including for the Dignity for All Students Act and marriage equality. Many of these advocates taught me, along with the rest of the Pride Agenda, invaluable lessons about sustainable community building--and resilience.

So what now? The work moves forward. The campaign to win transgender civil rights will undoubtedly be strong, and will need the help of every advocate. One of the most inspiring and challenging parts of advocating for justice to all New Yorkers is the fact that there is no clear beginning - or end - to the work we do together.

There are set-backs, challenges and victories. But the movement is rich with talented advocates, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with during my tenure at the Pride Agenda. I am strongly looking forward to acting as a volunteer advocate moving forward. Of course, I’m personally invested in equality, but I’m also intimately familiar with how far we have come, and how much more there still is to do. I look forward to pushing for the transgender civil rights bill, and to aiding with its implementation when it finally passes. I see a broad, inclusive, statewide movement for LGBT equality developing, with Pride Agenda assistance, and I’m honored to have been a part of the work as a staff member.

As I move from a professional, full time role, I know that I want to be there for the next steps in the struggle for transgender rights, and in the community building efforts on all of our goals. I’m grateful to have worked and learned from both staff and volunteers with the Pride Agenda. Those lessons will serve me well personally, and I know will serve this organization well, too.

Butchie, the GENDA puppy is the beloved pet of Sheilah Sable, the Pride Agenda’s Upstate Director of Pride in Action.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Will you promise to vote in the November 2 General Election?

If you voted in last week's Primary Election, you know in some of our endorsed races that it was a bit of a nail-biter until the last minute. However, thanks to your votes and your contributions of time and money, our community came out victorious in the vast majority of Pride Agenda's endorsed races. We held ground for our proven allies and helped new champions win their primaries. You also helped defeat a Senator who voted against both marriage for same-sex couples and the most basic civil rights for lesbian and gay New Yorkers.

We need you again. The Pride Agenda is pushing hard to the finish line, but in order to win in the General Election on November 2, every LGBT and allied New Yorker who is eligible must vote.

Make a promise to yourself and to the LGBT community today: Pledge to vote on Tuesday, November 2.
This commitment is important not only for LGBT people. To secure our rights, we need our allies to stand up and stand with us, and no time more than on Election Day. Sign our pledge:
"I pledge to turn out and vote on November 2 in support of LGBT equality and justice."

If you or anyone you know isn't registered, the deadline is October 8. We simply can't afford for any pro-LGBT New Yorker who is eligible to vote to miss an election, especially this one. We need to stand with our allies in office who have stood with us, and we need to send a strong message to politicians who have opposed us that there will be accountability for their actions. Sign our pledge, and ask your friends to make the promise, too.

PS -- Once you sign our pledge to vote, please consider taking the next step. "Like" us on Facebook for important election updates, contribute to our Election PAC or volunteer on a key race.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pride Agenda endorsements win -- You made the difference!

Today our movement took an important step forward. In some of the most hotly contested and closely watched races in the state, pro-LGBT candidates endorsed by the Pride Agenda claimed victory. This includes a flip from a Senator who voted against marriage equality to a candidate who has pledged support. Your tireless support helped us both defend the seats of our allies and bring new champions to office.

Some highlights from tonight include the following Pride Agenda-endorsed candidates who won their primary:

Statewide Race
Attorney General – Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D), Open

New York State Senate
SD 16 (Queens) – Toby Ann Stavisky (D), Incumbent
SD 18 (Brooklyn) – Velmanette Montgomery (D), Incumbent
SD 21 (Brooklyn) – Kevin S. Parker (D), Incumbent
SD 30 (Harlem) – Bill Perkins (D), Incumbent
SD 31 (Upper Manhattan and Bronx) -- Adriano Espaillat (D), Open
SD 46 (Albany) – Neil Breslin (D), Incumbent
SD 58 (Buffalo) – Tim Kennedy (D), Challenger
SD 60 (Buffalo) – Antoine Thompson (D), Incumbent

New York State Assembly
AD 28 – (Queens) Andrew Hevesi (D), Incumbent
AD 35 (Queens) – Jeffrion Aubry (D), Incumbent
AD 39 (Queens) – Francisco Moya (D), Open
AD 42 (Brooklyn) – Rhoda Jacobs (D), Incumbent
AD 73 (Manhattan) – Jonathan Bing (D), Incumbent
AD 76 (Bronx) – Peter M. Rivera (D), Incumbent
AD 80 (Bronx) – Naomi Rivera (D), Incumbent
AD 82 (Bronx) – Michael Benedetto (D), Incumbent
AD 131 (Rochester) – Harry Bronson (D), Open
AD 144 (Buffalo) – Sam Hoyt (D), Incumbent

In a state where incumbents win their elections 98 percent of the time, we know we face an uphill battle when we challenge those who vote against measures like marriage equality and transgender civil rights. But we also know it is important to send the message to candidates of all political stripes that working toward equality for LGBT New Yorkers is the just and politically prudent thing to do. Even when our preferred candidate does not win outright, we bring accountability to those elected officials who fail to stand up for fairness by showing them that it will not be a cakewalk to their next reelection.

We've gotten this far thanks to you. You spread the word about our endorsements to friends and family, phone banked and walked districts in support of candidates, donated to the Pride Agenda's PAC and to candidates themselves. Thanks to your contributions, the Pride Agenda Political Action Committee made close to $50,000 of direct campaign contributions to Primary campaigns. And already this year, staff and volunteers of the Pride Agenda Foundation have knocked on over ten thousand doors and visited transportation hubs, farmers markets and other locations to identify supporters of marriage equality and transgender civil rights in strategic areas across the state.

We are grateful that you have added our community's strength to the campaigns of so many champions for LGBT equality and justice. We also appreciate the important efforts of our partner organizations, like Fight Back New York, the Human Rights Campaign, Marriage Equality New York and many others, who have brought significant resources to the fight for marriage equality here in New York.

And it's not over yet. Please renew your commitment to winning equality and justice in the 2010 General Election on November 2. Contribute to the Pride Agenda PAC or contribute your time and volunteer on a key race. Stay tuned to our 2010 Election Center for new endorsements and important information as we approach the November elections.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pro-LGBT candidates need us all tomorrow -- Every vote will count!

Tomorrow's Primary Election could impact LGBT equality and justice in New York State for years to come. Can you really afford to sit this one out? The Empire State Pride Agenda has endorsed 20 pro-LGBT champions for tomorrow's primary.

Sen. Eric Schneiderman has been a tireless advocate for the rights of LGBT New Yorkers and our families. As a State Senator, he has always gone above and beyond for equality: advocating for us in his district, marshalling pro-LGBT votes from his colleagues, leading floor debates on marriage equality, and taking the initiative to sponsor pro-LGBT legislation. As attorney general , he will never back down in the pursuit of justice. We encourage you to vote for him and our other endorsements in tomorrow's primary election.

We need all LGBT New Yorkers and our supporters tomorrow. Check out our Primary Election Guide, listed below, and share with everyone you know in the state who cares about equality and justice. If you're not sure, you can find out your district at our action center, or find out for a friend.

Don't forget to go out and vote tomorrow, September 14 in the Primary Election for the candidates who will go to Albany and fight for the LGBT community and our issues!



Attorney General -- Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D), Open

SD 10 (Queens) -- Lynn Nunes (D), Challenger
SD 16 (Queens) -- Toby Ann Stavisky (D), Incumbent
SD 18 (Brooklyn) -- Velmanette Montgomery (D), Incumbent
SD 30 (Harlem) -- Bill Perkins (D), Incumbent
SD 31 (Upper Manhattan and Bronx) -- Adriano Espaillat (D), Open
SD 32 (Bronx) -- Carlos Ramos (D), Challenger
SD 46 (Albany) -- Neil Breslin (D), Incumbent
SD 58 (Buffalo) -- Tim Kennedy (D), Challenger
SD 60 (Buffalo) -- Antoine Thompson (D), Incumbent

AD 39 (Queens) -- Francisco Moya (D), Open
AD 73 (Manhattan) -- Jonathan Bing (D), Incumbent
AD 114 (Plattsburgh/North Country) -- Janet Duprey (R), Incumbent
AD 119 (Syracuse) -- Phillip LaTessa (D), Open
AD 131 (Rochester) -- Harry Bronson (D), Open
AD 42 (Brooklyn) -- Rhoda Jacobs (D), Incumbent
AD 76 (Bronx) -- Peter M. Rivera (D), Incumbent
AD 82 -- (Bronx) -- Michael Benedetto (D), Incumbent
AD 144 (Buffalo) -- Sam Hoyt (D), Incumbent
AD 80 (Bronx) -- Naomi Rivera (D), Incumbent

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tim Kennedy reaffirms commitment to LGBT equality & justice

Tim Kennedy (D), running in a tight primary race against Sen. Bill Stachowski (D) in the 58th district, was out campaigning at the Buffalo AFL CIO Council’s Labor Day Parade and Picnic in South Buffalo this Monday. Pride Agenda staff and volunteers were also there, signing up marriage equality and transgender civil rights supporters. When Kennedy saw us, he quickly came over to talk to us, once again vocally stating his strong support for marriage equality and transgender civil rights.

He even signed our Supporter Sign Up Sheet to further document his support on both issues. Kennedy and his staff also took the opportunity to thank the Pride Agenda for its endorsement and involvement in his campaign to oust Bill Stachowski, who has consistently voted against measures supporting LGBT equality and justice, including SONDA, the most basic of civil rights protections based on sexual orientation. With the primary less than a week away, Kennedy needs support from the LGBT community and our allies to bring about long overdue change in the 58th Senate District.

Post by Western New York Organizer Alden M. Bashaw.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Governor Paterson Signs Dignity for All Students Act!

You did it! Thanks to years of advocacy by committed people like you, today Governor Paterson signed into law landmark statewide legislation with specific protections for LGBT youth. Won't you take a moment to send an email to the governor thanking him for signing The Dignity for All Students Act today?

The Dignity for All Students Act prohibits and combats bullying and discrimination in public schools, including bias harassment based on traits like race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. It requires teacher training on how to discourage incidents of bias harassment, inclusion of discrimination and harassment awareness in students' civility and character education and the reporting of bias incidents to the State Education Department.

"Dignity" recognizes that students who are bullied can't concentrate on learning, may drop out of school and sometimes take their own lives. It also marks the first time a New York state law has included explicit protections for transgender New Yorkers.

Today's historic victory is the result of 10 years of hard work. In 2000, Pride Agenda joined with our partner GLSEN to pull together the Dignity for All Students Coalition, which now numbers over 200 very diverse groups like New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Anti Defamation League. Thanks to a decade of your consistent pressure, the leadership of Governor Paterson and the tenacious work of its sponsors, Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell and Senator Tom Duane, "Dignity" passed the Legislature earlier this year with overwhelmingly bipartisan support.

It takes a minute to send a thank you note with our effective and easy-to-use action center. Your action today also sends a message to the next governor and all candidates running for office: we take action when our elected officials keep their promises -- and when they don't. You will also be signed up for our action center so you can continue to make your voice heard on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and marriage equality.

Once you thank Governor Paterson, please spread the word and forward this email to everyone you know who cares about student safety, and share the link on your social networks like Facebook or Twitter. No student should have to fear for their safety while trying to learn in school. Thank you for everything you did to help win this historic victory today.

P.S. -- You can also make a donation to our PAC to support pro-LGBT candidates who have committed to go above and beyond for our community --like this governor did today.

ELECTION ALERT: Our Primary Election Guide for Tuesday, September 14

We are one week away from an election that could determine the progress that New York will be able to achieve on marriage equality and GENDA for years to come. Pro-LGBT voters must make our voices heard this Tuesday. We can show candidates that supporting the LGBT community is both the right thing to do -- and politically prudent.

Check out our Primary Election Guide. It has what you need to make an informed choice in the voting booth on Tuesday, September 14 regarding which candidates support LGBT equality and justice issues. Then, make sure your friends and family know about it: forward this email and share the Primary Election Guide on social networks.

The Empire State Pride Agenda's Political Action Committee has endorsed 18 pro-LGBT candidates for the New York State Primary who have all stated on our questionnaire their unequivocal support for issues including transgender civil rights, marriage equality and public funding for LGBT health and human services across the state. These candidates include:

:: Attorney General — Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D), Open seat ::

A tireless advocate who has gone above and beyond simply voting for our rights, Senator Schneiderman has advocated for us in his district, marshaled pro-LGBT votes from his colleagues and led floor debates on our issues, such as marriage equality. He is not only a staunch supporter, but a true leader on LGBT issues.

:: Senate District 10 (Queens) — Lynn Nunes (D), Challenger ::

Lynn Nunes has proactively stated his support for marriage equality, transgender civil rights and other issues important to the LGBT community throughout his campaign. His opponent voted against the marriage bill and failed to fill out the Pride Agenda candidate questionnaire seeking our endorsement.

:: Senate District 58 (Buffalo) — Tim Kennedy (D), Challenger ::

Committed to cosponsoring the GENDA bill, the marriage equality bill and other LGBT family legislation, Tim Kennedy faces a 30-year incumbent who voted against SONDA, the most basic anti-discrimination protections for lesbian and gay people, and was one of the decisive no votes against marriage in the Senate. Now he has made his opposition to our equality a central theme in his campaign. He tried to turn Kennedy's pro-LGBT stance against him, but Kennedy has responded by publicly and clearly reiterating his support.

Please, help make history in 2010. If there is no endorsed candidate in your district -- or even if there is -- you can go above and beyond and volunteer on a key race or make a contribution to our election PAC.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bereavement leave for same-sex couples signed by governor

A-2563a/S6177a prevents employers who extend funeral or bereavement leave to an employee for the death of a spouse, child, parent or other relative from denying the same leave for the death of an employee's same-sex committed partner. The new law defines same-sex committed partners as those who are financially and emotionally interdependent in a manner commonly presumed of spouses.

Pride Agenda has championed this critical legislation from the beginning to fill at least some of the gaps caused by the denial of marriage equality to New York’s committed same-sex couples. Big thanks to Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Senator Velmanette Montgomery for serving our community as lead sponsors of such an important bill!

Though New York State government recognizes the marriages of same-sex couples performed elsewhere, this new legislation makes it absolutely clear that our families will be treated fairly during the most trying of times. Every kind of family knows the pain of loss, and employers shouldn't single out certain employees to treat differently.

What it takes to be OUR Miss New York

In a year where we are celebrating the passage of the Dignity for All Students Act, a law to combat LGBT bias-based bullying, harassment and discrimination in the state's public schools and the first New York State law to include protections based on gender identity and expression, we are inspired by advocates who are working so hard to fight discrimination and open the dialogue around the issues facing the LGBT community, and especially our youth.

That is why we are so pleased to invite you to join us at the Empire State Pride Agenda's Fall Dinner on Thursday, October 14, where we will recognize the recipient of our 2010 Douglas W. Jones Leadership Award, Claire Buffie, Miss New York 2010.

For the first time in the 90 year history of the Miss America Pageant, Claire selected LGBT equality as her platform, working to engage and inspire straight allies to understand the discrimination LGBT youth face. Her groundbreaking platform, Straight for Equality: Let's Talk, is based on her past work with organizations such as PFLAG and A Thousand Moms to break the stigma of marginalized youth, eliminate discriminatory vocabulary and change the climate in New York schools by opening the dialogue about equality among youth, teens and adults alike. She, like the majority of New Yorkers, recognizes the unequal treatment that the LGBT community faces and is dedicated instilling pride, dignity and respect in developing minds and compassionate hearts.

Please join us in recognizing her at our 2010 Fall Dinner. The Fall Dinner is our chance to raise critical funds that will go directly to our efforts to increase awareness of our issues and elect supportive candidates for office. We are prepared to change the debate in Albany, support those who stood by us and bring in new legislators who consider our rights a real priority. In the coming weeks, we'll be helping to elect those who have stood by our side as well as new candidates who we can be certain will bring about real change in Albany.

Change happens when our community and our allies, like Claire, come together and support those who can -- and will -- fight for our equality right here in New York. This work can only happen with your generosity -- and with it, we will lead our community to equality and justice. That is why we want you to join us on October 14 and be part of this important night.

You will also be joined by our hosts for the 2010 Fall Dinner, award-winning actress and longtime LGBT advocate, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Bravo's SVP Original Programming and Development and host of Watch What Happens: Live!, Andy Cohen. In addition, you will be joined by opinion makers, celebrities and elected officials from across New York and the country.

And, it is not too late to be added to our invitation -- the deadline is being extended until Wednesday, September 1! Sign up right now, and join our growing list of Table Captains and Sponsors! Join us in celebrating our community and our allies who are committed to supporting our work.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You can help elect 5 more champions for equality and justice

We're only 23 days from the New York Primary Election -- just over three weeks away -- when voters could be deciding the fate of our rights for years to come. We're keeping the ball rolling here at the Pride Agenda and are thrilled to release our latest round of endorsements passed by the Pride Agenda's Political Action Committee (PAC). Will you help us tip the balance of the Senate and hold onto a supportive, pro-LGBT Assembly?

Make a contribution of $60 to Pride Agenda PAC -- one dollar for each pro-equality candidate we've endorse so far. Or make a contribution of $23 for each day left until polls open.

Volunteer your time on key races that will really make a difference. If you've never volunteered on a campaign before, now's your chance to take the fight for equality into your own hands and meet others who want to make a difference in New York.

If elected, the following candidates will help us continue fighting for our legislative priorities, such as the freedom to marry and the most basic of civil rights protections for transgender New Yorkers:

New York State Senate
Primary Election --

SD 31 (Upper Manhattan and Bronx) -- Adriano Espaillat (D), Open
SD 18 (Brooklyn) -- Velmanette Montgomery (D), Incumbent

General Election --
SD 22 (Brooklyn) -- Michael DiSanto (D), Challenger
SD 38 (Orange and Rockland Counties) -- David Carlucci (D), Open

New York State Assembly
General Election --
AD 1 (Suffolk County) -- Fred Thiele (I), Incumbent

Check out our online Election Center for a full list of endorsements, and stay tuned for our upcoming 2010 Election Guide, that we urge you to share with everyone in your life who supports full equality and justice.

In a time with some frustrating delays in our movement, from the federal courts to the halls of Congress, we know that we can make change happen in New York right NOW. We know we can count on you to be a part of that change. Contribute to our PAC or volunteer in a key race today. Let's build LGBT power in Albany together.

Friday, August 20, 2010

New no-fault divorce law applicable to same-sex couples

With Governor Paterson’s signature on August 14, New York became the last state to allow no fault divorce. Blogger and legal expert Arthur Leonard points out that this law will also apply to legally married same-sex couples who reside in New York, in line with the state’s policy of recognizing marriages performed out of state. In a memo accompanying the bill, the authors make it explicitly clear that the law is to apply to all couples equally.

Everyone deserves equality before the law, and that includes the responsibilities that come with marriage, in good times and in bad.

Friday Sweep

Recently Pride Agenda's executive director, Ross Levi, and director of governmental projects and community development, Jonathan Lang, joined other representatives from LGBT groups across the country for a briefing on the Administration's efforts to improve the way our federal government serves LGBT people, including in New York.

The U.S. Department of Justice, for one, has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of a northern New York student's anti-gay bias discrimination case.

The Troy Record gives space for a response to a downright offensive opinion piece published recently attacking both marriage equality and lesbians and gays as people.

The Western New York Stonewall Democrats have joined the Pride Agenda and other pro-LGBT groups to endorse Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General. On August 30, we'll be hosting a community dialogue in Buffalo. Join us!

The Los Angeles Times and GLAAD criticize "Dr Laura," who used the N-word on the air and called being gay a "biological error," for falsely claiming her 1st Amendment rights were violated: "The 1st Amendment is just fine: Schlessinger exercised her right to use a racial slur; offended listeners exercised their right to criticize her for it."

And recently the American Bar Association joined the New York State Bar Association to come out in support of the freedom to marry.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Photos from OffSprung's Fire Island Pines weekend

We had a blast at the Beach Ball and Low Tea last Saturday. Hope to see you next year!

Pride Agenda flags flew high above the harbor as OffSprung co-hosted a packed Low Tea with the Blue Whale.

OffSprung members, new and returning, escaped the heat in the pool and at the beach.

Donnie made a friend with Mary on the ferry, on her way to visit her son in the Pines. She even agreed to let us give her a Pride Agenda tattoo!

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