Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Video: Assemblymember Hoyt wants you to make calls

Assemblymember Sam Hoyt representing Buffalo and Grand Island released this video asking for people to make calls to the State Senate and ask them to allow all loving, same-sex couples to marry. "Like" it on YouTube to say thanks, and don't forget to call your Senator!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Family Photo Album: Picture Equality

A message from Executive Director Ross Levi

Join the Empire State Pride Agenda and our coalition partners for our project “Family Photo Album: Picture Equality.” Together we will present the faces and families of marriage equality in New York State to our Senate. Send a family photo and a letter to your Senators so they, too, can “picture equality.”

Senators from all across the state are receiving large numbers of phone calls and postcards from supporters of marriage for all loving, committed couples. Unfortunately, they’re also hearing from our opponents.

We need to show them why marriage matters for all New Yorkers. As your Senators contemplate their vote on marriage in the next few weeks, it is vital that they remember that their constituents’ lives are at stake—the lives of real families and the lives of our friends and relatives who care about us.

This Memorial Day weekend, as you gather with family, friends and neighbors, take a picture and then send it along with a personal letter that tells your Senator why marriage is an issue that is important to you and those you care about. Or send them a digital photo attached to a personal email. Find your Senator’s email or mailing address at: http://www.nysenate.gov/senators.

We need your help to let Senators know that the decision to vote for marriage equality cannot be simply based on politics; we need them to know that their decision impacts loving couples who want to make a commitment to each other, families who want to protect their children and young people who want to grow up in a state where they can nurture their own families and futures.

Let us know when you’ve contacted your Senator so we can keep track of how many Senators have heard that “It’s Personal” from their constituents. Email us at prideagenda@prideagenda.org if you’re sending your photo through the mail or bcc us if you’re sending an email.

If you want to share your photo and story, feel free to post your photo and a caption on our Facebook event “Picture Equality.”

Join us in creating our picture of equality.

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Weekly Agenda: No Stone Unturned

Post by Executive Director Ross Levi

What an incredible week it has been here at the Empire State Pride Agenda! Progress is being made on many fronts as we continue the countdown toward the scheduled end of this legislative session on June 20. The clock is ticking and now is the time that we really need your help.

Depth of Union Support for Marriage Demonstrated
Just yesterday I was honored to be part of an unprecedented event demonstrating widespread union support for marriage equality, hosted by New York State AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum - who is also a member of the Empire State Pride Agenda Board of Directors. Our Pride in Our Union program has been laying the groundwork and building relationships for years so that I could stand on the steps of New York City Hall with these two great union leaders along with United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, Eastern Regional Vice-President of Actors’ Equity Association (and former Miss America) Kate Shindle, Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU 32BJ Hector Figueroa, Executive Vice-President of 1199SEIU Aida Garcia, Vice President Bill Henning of Communications Workers of America 1180 and Scott Somers of United Auto Workers Region 9A.

Progress Made on Transgender Equality and Justice
As part of our ongoing work with the New York State Department of Health to improve the arcane and draconian requirements to change gender markers on birth certificates, we are collecting stories of transgender New Yorkers who have undergone significant hardship due to mismatched gender markers on documents like birth certificates. If you would like to add your story to this effort please contact Christopher Argyros at CArgyros@prideagenda.org.

Also, one of the state’s leading women’s organizations, Family Planning Advocates, committed its support to the growing voices urging the legislature to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).

Communities of Color Leaders for Marriage

I am proud to share with you the success of our efforts to make sure the voices of leaders from communities of color who publicly endorse marriage equality are heard loud and clear. We recruited a number of high profile individuals to sign onto a public letter including Phillippe Abraham, Chair of the Capital District Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Glen Michael-Francis, Executive Director of Griot Circle, Marjorie J. Hill, Chief Executive Officer of GMHC, Bishop Zachary G. Jones, Executive Director of the Unity Fellowship Breaking Ground, Inc., Eric L. Adams, State Senator, Tandra LaGrone, Executive Director of In Our Own Voices and Stephaun E. Wallace, Interim Executive Director / Director of Programs at The MOCHA Center, Inc.

Record-Breaking Spring Dinner
We hosted our 12th Annual Spring Dinner in Rochester last weekend. Attended by more than 700 members of the community, the dinner has grown to be one of the season's most highly regarded events, thanks in no small part to the hard work of the members and leadership of the local Dinner Steering Committee. Rich Ognibene, a local activist and 2008 New York State Teacher of the Year was given our Community Service Award and Eric T. Schneiderman made his first presentation in his capacity as New York State Attorney General to the Pride Agenda. We were pleased to be joined by so many elected officials from the area. A visit by Senator James Alesi garnered a lot of press attention statewide because this year he has moved publicly from a no vote on marriage to being undeclared.

Outreach Continues
The Pride Agenda is also stepping up our phone banking efforts. Volunteers for the coalition New Yorkers United for Marriage have been phone banking at the 1199SEIU facilities two evenings a week. The Pride Agenda has started recruiting callers for two additional evenings, essentially doubling capacity during this critical time. Phone banks are now held Monday through Thursday through the end of session. If you’d like to volunteer, please contact Nicholas Galbraith at NGalbraith@prideagenda.org.

In the final four weeks of the legislative session the Pride Agenda is digging deep to build support and increase the call for the passage of GENDA and marriage. As I walk through the corridors of Albany I hear again and again that our efforts are gaining traction, but there is still so much more to be done – in such a short period of time.

I pledge to you that the Pride Agenda will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of equality and justice – and I ask you to do the same.

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Introducing the Weekly Agenda

Post by Executive Director Ross Levi

As one of the Empire State Pride Agenda’s valued supporters, I wanted to fill you in on some of the exciting news that you may not be reading about in the press and invite you to join us as we pursue our aggressive advocacy campaign to improve the lives of all LGBT New Yorkers.

Another Monumental Equality & Justice Day
Last week’s wildly successful Equality & Justice Day continues to fuel our momentum. On May 9, the Pride Agenda brought more than 1,200 LGBT New Yorkers and our allies to Albany to tell their stories directly to legislators about the need for transgender civil rights, marriage equality and health services for the LGBT community. The event got a lot of press attention, and we are still hearing from legislators and their staff about the impact of seeing and hearing from so many of their constituents.

Police Chiefs for a Transgender Civil Rights Bill
On the heels of this magnificent day, the Police Chiefs of Rochester and Albany publicly confirmed what we already know to be true: that it makes sense from a law and order perspective for all residents to be treated fairly and equally and to be fully protected by the laws of the state. All hardworking New Yorkers, including transgender people, should have a chance to earn a living, provide for themselves and their families, and be protected from bias crime. With the support of these law enforcement officials, we continue to push for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would extend civil rights protections to transgender New Yorkers.

Pride Agenda Supporters in your Mailbox
The Pride Agenda continues to advocate for all loving, committed couples to be able to legally marry in our state. Paul and Iris Blumenthal are long time supporters of the Pride Agenda who volunteered to appear in a piece of direct mail that was sent to ten targeted Senate Districts. Along with our partners, we’ve also helped recruit and train hundreds of couples who want to take on a public roll telling their stories about why marriage is so important to them. If you want to get involved with this program, please contact George Simpson.

Our Years of Strategic Organizing Pays Off
We’re capitalizing on the hard work of our Pride in Action programs to mobilize key allies across the state in support of marriage. Through our Pride in the Pulpit program, more than 730 faith leaders have expressed their commitment to supporting loving, committed couples who what to marry, and their support was publicized in Albany through a well covered press conference. Union backing for the initiative continues to grow daily, thanks in large part to the Pride Agenda’s Pride in Our Union project. And we have used our resources to help recruit African American and Latino leaders to sign on to a coalition letter in support or marriage equality. Coming up: the unveiling of hundreds of businesses, large and small, that recognize allowing marriage for all loving, committed couples is good for New York State business.

Summer Fun Supporting the Pride Agenda
As the legislative session enters the final few weeks I’ll be keeping you up to date on the issues that are so important to our community. The hard work we have ahead will be easier if we remember to celebrate our successes along the way as well, so I invite you to join us at our very first Hudson Valley Engagement, June 4, and at our 19th annual Hamptons Tea Dance, July 9 in Water Mill New York.

New Talent at the Top
On an internal note, we have new leadership at the helm of the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation. Our Board of Directors represent the remarkable diversity that comprises our movement. We have board members who are straight, LGB and T, Democratic, Republican, from upstate and from downstate. Individually and collectively their talent, commitment and expertise guide the organization. At the lead we welcome two new Co-Chairs, Louis A. Bradbury and Marla Hassner.

Louis brings a wealth of business expertise and a breadth of experience with progressive non-profits including Calamus Foundation, Planned Parenthood of NYC and Gay Men’s Health Crisis, in addition to several others. Marla is an Employee Relations Specialist whose work has spanned the finance, legal and non-profit sectors. As the former Co-Chair of the Pride Agenda’s Pride in My Workplace Committee, she helped create the highly-lauded Best Practices Guide for New York State Businesses to Support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Employees.

We also welcome new Foundation Vice Chairs J. Goodwin Bland and Mark Siwiec, along with new members to both of our Boards: Don Capoccia, Faith Gay, Monica Graham, Alan Lubin, Jeff Soref and Toby Usnik.

As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to the leadership of our Board, past and present, including the service of outgoing Foundation Co-Chairs Mitch Karsch and Frank Selvaggi.

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A snapshot of Equality & Justice Day

Did you make it? Leave a comment and tell us what you thought. You can also share your own photos on our Facebook page at www.prideagenda.org/PrideAgenda, or Tweet them at us @PrideAgenda.

Photo: Lori Van Buren /Albany Times Union

"An ever-increasing number of New Yorkers and Americans want fairness and equality for their LGBT family members, friends and neighbors, and expect their elected officials to work to achieve those goals,” said Ross D. Levi, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. “We are here to make sure New York State legislators hear those voices and implement the changes we are calling for.”

Additional photos from Pride Agenda photographer Drea Leanza.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New TV Ad Amplifies Marriage Momentum

Post by Executive Director Ross Levi

Dear Supporter,

The drum beat towards marriage is getting louder and louder. Will you help us make sure our legislators in Albany are paying attention?

Today, New Yorkers United for Marriage, a coalition of which the Pride Agenda is proud to be a part, released a moving video of Mary Jo Kennedy and Jo-Ann Shain, a lesbian couple who have been in a loving, committed partnership for more than 29 years and simply want to say “I do” in their home state.

May Jo and Jo-Ann’s story will be airing on television channels across the state beginning tomorrow to raise the voices of loving couples who ardently want to get married.

But TV ads are just one of the ways we’re taking charge of the marriage debate here in New York. Will you make a contribution to fuel our aggressive work on marriage this legislative session?
At this very moment, the Pride Agenda is setting the stage for Equality & Justice Day, New York’s largest statewide LGBT day of action and advocacy, on this coming Monday, May 9. More than 1,100 pro-LGBT New Yorkers are headed to the Capitol in Albany to bring our stories and support directly to our elected representatives.
Just yesterday, the Pride Agenda announced that adding their voice to the chorus for equality are more than 700 clergy from across the state who want to make marriage a reality for loving, committed same-sex couples.
The business community is on board, too, through another Pride Agenda initiative, New York Business for Marriage, that recognizes that marriage equality is a win-win-win for business, the economy and New York State.
We are galvanizing support from organized labor, so New York unions representing millions of New Yorkers can publicly show their solidarity by standing up for marriage equality.
On top of that, we’re actively phone banking, setting up local legislative meetings and sending out direct mail in State Senate districts where there are legislators who are undecided on whether to support loving same-sex couples in their journey towards marriage.

I can feel the momentum gathering as ally after ally joins our movement toward the day when all loving New York couples who want to make a life-long commitment to each other can finally get married. But we’re not there yet.

Won’t you help us cross the finish line?
There is nothing more rewarding than working for equality and justice for our community, and I want you by my side.

In unity,

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda