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.