Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Weekly Agenda: Our moment is at hand

Post by Executive Director Ross Levi

Last night I was thrilled to share with you the news that LGBT New Yorkers and our families took another step closer to marriage equality as the bill passed the New York State Assembly for the fourth time in a bipartisan vote.
But we are not over the finish line yet. The fate of same-sex couples’ ability to marry in New York State rests with the State Senate. We are hopeful the legislators in that chamber will heed the voice of the 58% of New Yorkers who believe that all loving, committed couples should be able to marry here in the Empire State.
And it’s our job to bring the chorus of support to them. Please call your Senator and ask everyone you know to do the same. The Pride Agenda has launched a state-of-the-art click-to-call tool which will make placing your call as easy as technologically possible. Click here to call your senator now.

Pride in Action Programs Lead to Broad and Deep Support
More than five years ago, after passing the bill we were founded to pass - the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act - the Pride Agenda started our Pride in Action Programs: Pride in the Pulpit, Pride in Our Union and Pride in My Workplace. These programs change the hearts and minds of New Yorkers to be more welcoming of the LGBT community. Through the years this work has led to relationships and deep alliances that are now bearing fruit for our marriage campaign, as we find ourselves relying on the support of key allies in the faith, labor and business communities, often at a moment’s notice.
In The Daily Beast, John Avlon wrote "If this effort is successful, it will be in large part because a broad coalition was built, including business and union leaders as well as the activist community." Articles such as this underscore the value and need for these programs to demonstrate that our movement goes beyond Albany politics and is driven by people from all walks of life.
Visit to check out the broad and deep support that exists for marriage all over the state – a direct result of our Pride in Action Programs.

GENDA Passes the Assembly
Our community had another major legislative victory as the Assembly passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act on Tuesday evening. Long a priority of the Empire State Pride Agenda, this transgender civil rights bill is essential to ensuring that all New Yorkers are treated fairly under the law.

We’re Still Increasing Our Volume
Our outreach campaign for marriage equality continues, and we won’t stop until either the session is finally over, or we have a vote in both houses. The Pride Agenda continues to drive our volunteers to phone banks asking key constituents to call their senators. One of our supporters, Lance Bass of ‘N Sync, joined phone bankers just last night in an especially impactful night, along with Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Quinn and over 150 volunteers!
If you’re in New York City, please join us any time from 5 to 8:30 p.m. for our LAST phone bank for this campaign. It’s hosted by our labor friends at SEIU 1199, 330 West 42nd Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

Faith Leaders Speak Out
The Pride Agenda’s Pride in the Pulpit program hosted a press conference on the steps of the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester earlier this week. Bishop Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester was joined by more than 20 clergy and faith leaders to call on the legislature to pass marriage equality legislation.
“Marriage is a sacramental rite between two people who love each other deeply enough to want to spend the rest of their lives together,” said the Bishop. “That is enough of a reason to ensure that it is available as a rite and as a right to gay and straight couples. I have been married to my lovely bride Roja for nineteen years and we have two children. I would like my gay and lesbian neighbors to have the same privilege, support and joy.”

Editorial Strategy Comes to Fruition
Over the last several years, we have been meeting with the editorial boards of the state’s major newspapers. Virtually every one of them have now written in support of marriage equality. After meeting with Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle three times over the past eight years, it was particularly gratifying to see them finally stand by our community.

Since the last vote on marriage, the influential Long Island newspaper Newdsay also came around toward the position of everyday Long Islanders, and actually editorialized for marriage three times this legislative session. This morning, Newsday featured a moving, but educational op-ed from longtime Pride Agenda supporters Susanne and Carl Richter. The Pride Agenda worked with the Richters to help them share the story of their love for their lesbian daughter in print.
In these final few days, we have not slowed our efforts. Though we’ve been running a high-intensity campaign since day one, it actually feels as though we have accelerated. Here in the 11th hour, in the final few moments to make sure that all loving, committed New Yorkers can get married here in New York State, we cannot allow our momentum to falter. Victory is within our reach and we must take that final step.

Onwards to Equality!

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

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