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

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