Thursday, August 18, 2011

What's on the Agenda

Often, you have to water the seeds of a movement for years before the vines start to show fruit. As the battle for marriage heated up, we were really able to see the fruits of our labor from seeds planted years ago and put them to effective use. Now we need your help to continue cultivating and harvesting these grapes and turning them into the sweet wine of victory.

Pride in Action

In 2003, the Pride Agenda launched our Pride in Action programs to work with the business, labor and faith communities in recognition that we need more than LGBT people fighting for LGBT equality and justice. Our Pride in the Pulpit, Pride in My Workplace and Pride in Our Union programs play critical roles in opening the hearts and minds of New Yorkers to the LGBT community and our families. Through these programs, the Pride Agenda has made deep inroads and valuable political alliances that have helped us advance our legislative and public policy goals. They also will be crucial to our work to make sure that our governmental wins live up to their promise and help spur real societal change.

Pride in the Pulpit
confronts religious-based bigotry by building a network of congregations and leaders of faith throughout New York State who advocate for equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers and our families. This network is deepening their engagement in our transgender equality and justice work by helping get faith-based women’s groups involved and publicly supporting a statewide transgender civil rights bill.

Pride in My Workplace encourages workplaces throughout New York State to be free of discrimination and affirm the presence and contributions of their LGBT employees. In the aftermath of the marriage victory, a number of companies are considering eliminating benefits for domestic partners. We are very concerned about this possibility because at least until marriage is recognized by the federal government and more reliably in other states, some families may chose not to get married for immigration, adoption, taxation or personal reasons. The Pride Agenda has convened a series of lunch and learn sessions based on a white paper to underscore the need to maintain these vital programs, both in businesses and in unions.

Pride in Our Union
encourages unions in all sectors of the labor movement in New York State to be free of discrimination and to bargain and advocate on behalf of LGBT members and their families. In solidarity, we work to build a movement that calls for respect for diversity and advances the goal of social and economic justice for all. Currently, 90% of New York City municipal workers are covered for trans-related health care. This policy can be used as a model for other unions, and the Pride Agenda is advocating for its adoption. Also, our annual conference in November will feature a workshop on legal issues for same-sex couples.

Victory and the Road Ahead

Louis Bradbury and Marla Hassner, the Board Co-Chairs of the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation, laid out a vision of next steps for the Pride Agenda and our community that was published this week in Gay City News.

“…As we revel in a jubilant celebration of the passage of marriage equality, we must keep our eyes on the prizes still not realized. We must continue the incredible momentum we have achieved through partnering with our allies in the pulpit, the union halls, the workplace, and the government, as we create new alliances within our communities. And we must commit to fulfilling the vision of true equality and justice for all LGBT New Yorkers and our families.”

Equality Federation Summer Meeting
Last week, a number of Pride Agenda staffers attended the annual meeting of the Equality Federation, the national alliance of statewide LGBT advocacy organizations. We were repeatedly and enthusiastically thanked by our allies in other states for pushing for so many years and finally securing marriage; many of them said how the ripple effect of our victory has tangibly helped them in their work.It was inspiring to be faced with the depth of the impact that our efforts have, not only in New York, but on the rest of the country. In recognition of the marriage victory, the Pride Agenda received the Most Amazing Accomplishment Award from our peers. And in a very humbling gesture, I was awarded the Federation’s inaugural Leadership Award for the role I played in the marriage victory as well as my leadership on the Federation Board.

As the summer slowly winds to a close, I look forward to the increased momentum of the Fall and the work we have ahead. With your support, the Pride Agenda will continue to be a strong and effective statewide force advancing LGBT equality and justice. Together we will celebrate the day that vision is realized!

With Hope!
Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

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