Wednesday, April 30, 2008

E&J Day Gets GENDA Moving

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would outlaw discrimination against transgender people in New York, has just passed the Assembly’s Government Operations Committee. Currently it is legal in New York to be fired from your job, kicked out of your house or be denied service in a restaurant just for being transgender. GENDA would put an end to this kind of discrimination.

The Committee vote comes the day after 1300-plus LGBT and straight New Yorkers were in Albany lobbying for key LGBT bills, including GENDA. The bill currently has 74 co-sponsors and, according to the Pride Agenda scorecard, 94 Assemblymembers would vote for the bill if brought to the floor. That’s way more than the 76 votes required to pass. Additionally, in a poll that the Pride Agenda commissioned in Feb. of this year, 78 percent of New York voters support passing this bill.

The vote was 9-2, with one absence (Marcus Molinaro), and went right down party line (Dems voting for, Republicans voting against):

Voting for GENDA:

RoAnn Destito (chair)
Michael Benedetto
Patricia Eddington
Sandy Galef
Rory Lancman
George Latimer
Margaret Markey
Crystal Peoples
Bob Rielly

Voting against GENDA:

Jack Quinn
Joe Saladino

Next up for GENDA: the Codes Committee

Equality & Justice Day 2008 - Open Thread

Yesterday, more than 1300 LGBT New Yorkers and our allies went to Albany to lobby lawmakers on issues that are most important to our community. To all attendees: please use this space to leave your impressions of the day--what you liked, what you learned or how you feel that you made a difference. And if you couldn't be there, feel free to add your comments here, too.

On behalf of the Pride Agenda, thank you to everyone who came and made E&J Day 2008 the largest-ever lobby day for our community.

Morning Sweep

The Presbyterian church’s highest court has cleared Rev. Jane Spahr, a lesbian minister with longtime ties to the Rochester community, of any violation of church law for marrying two lesbian couples in 2005.

BBC News profiles a Latino gay rights organization in Manhattan that addresses the issue of being a “minority twice over.”

Why do Hillary Clinton’s LGBT supporters love her so? investigates.

Recent controversy over the gay characters Luke and Noah on the soap opera “As The World Turns” has led the show’s sponsor, Proctor & Gamble, to set up a hotline for fans to voice their opinions. The number is 1-800-331-3774 – all you have to do is press 1 to register your support for the storyline!

Three Greeks from the island of Lesbos are taking a local gay rights group to court for using the word “Lesbian” in the organization’s name. Apparently, they’re having trouble keeping their Lesbians (island residents) and lesbians (same-sex visitors) straight.

The ACLU will represent two gay students in Memphis who were outed by their principal, who added them to a list of couples that needed to be monitored, and even went so far as calling one of their mothers to ask if she knew her son was gay. Just another example of why we need the Dignity for All Students Act.

Australia’s federal government will amend some laws to provide pension and hospital visitation rights to gays, but there will still be no marriage equality or civil unions in the land Down Under.

Details magazine’s blog explores the “movement” of gay couples having children, which they’re calling the “gay baby boom.”

Equality & Justice Day 2008

We can’t believe Equality & Justice Day 2008 is already over! It was a whirlwind day of lobbying, caucusing, rallying and networking for the more than 1300 LGBT New Yorkers and allies who attended. Thanks to everyone who made the trek to Albany to make our voices heard on marriage equality, outlawing discrimination against transgender New Yorkers, and safe schools for LGBT youth.

Here are some scenes from the Convention Hall and caucuses in the morning:

The speakers really fired up the crowd at our lunchtime rally, despite the less than desirable (a.k.a. freezing) weather. And with our tireless chants, we’re sure they heard us from the State Capitol Building!

At the end of the day, two of the openly gay legislators, Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell and State Senator Tom Duane, thanked everyone for their hard work and renewed their commitment to fight for LGBT rights.

Thanks again to everyone who made E&J Day 2008 a huge success!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Morning Sweep

The New York Times Magazine takes an in-depth look at gay couples who marry young.

Also in the Times, a story about trans people who come out after they are married and maintain their relationships with their spouses.

In a social experiment, ABC News gauged people’s reactions to gay and lesbian couples kissing in public in both Verona, New Jersey and Birmingham, Alabama. Apparently, some consider gay PDA to be a 911-worthy emergency.

The U.S. Senate has passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, but Congress seems no closer to passing ENDA. The Bilerico Project ponders why there’s so much support for legislation against hypothetical discrimination as opposed to the real discrimination that LGBT people face.

There’s no protection for LGBT employees in Wyoming: A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling in the case of a school district that discriminated against two former employees because they are lesbians.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Day of Silence

The national Day of Silence, sponsored by GLSEN, brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. This year’s event is being held in memory of Lawrence King, a California 8th-grader who was shot and killed Feb. 12 by a classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. Students from more than 6,000 schools around the country – a record number – have taken a vow of silence for the day in an effort to educate their peers on the issue.

Unfortunately, participants at many schools are facing protests, and some parents are even letting their students stay home to keep them out of the fray. In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund has a “Day Of Truth” planned for Monday, when anti-gay students will “counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda.”

Here’s a sample of the coverage of the events and controversy surrounding this important day in several states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Wisconsin

Morning Sweep

Asked to weigh in on the plight of several gay Iranians living in the U.K. who face possible death sentences if deported, Obama and Clinton expressed concern, while McCain chose not to respond.

Religious youth don’t always lean to the right – an increasing number of young religious voters are undecided or liberal, and not basing their political decisions on hot-button issues like gay marriage.

Transgender characters have become more common on TV shows, but they usually aren’t played by trans actors.

Way to rain on the parade: the mayor of Moscow isn’t allowing a gay pride march this year.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Morning Sweep

A new study shows that the majority of LGBT 16 to 22-year-olds hope to find long-term partners by the time they’re 30 and to raise children with them.

Queerty found that the Attorney Generals who have endorsed McCain are notoriously anti-gay.

Journalist Larry King has spoken out against the murder of Lawrence King, the 15-year-old gay boy who shares his name. King supports the Day of Silence and says that “all students should be free to be themselves without the fear of name calling, bullying or harassment.”

Just in time to remind us why the Day of Silence is needed, an Illinois court has ruled that a student who wore a shirt with an anti-gay slogan to school was within her legal rights.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Morning Sweep

Local trans activist Melissa Sklarz reflects on last week’s national trans lobby day in Washington, D.C.

Both of the New Jersey Democrats vying for the U.S. Senate seat support full LGBT equality.

The heat may have fried the brains of Arizona legislators, who have passed yet another amendment in the House to ban gay marriage. If it passes the Senate, it will be added to the Nov. ballot.

A U.S. Senator plans to tack expanded hate crimes legislation for gays on to a defense bill, but there’s close to no chance that it will actually be taken seriously.

The Bilerico Project takes a comprehensive look at how parents – both gay and straight – really feel about their kids’ being gay.

Tinky Winky can breathe a sigh of relief: the Polish official who called for an investigation of the allegedly gay purple Teletubby (he carries a purse!) has resigned.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Morning Sweep

To talk to the gay press, or not to talk? The Advocate has an analysis of Obama’s media outreach efforts to the LGBT community.

Rev. Jane Spahr, a lesbian Presbyterian minister with longtime ties to the Rochester community, will face the church’s highest court for marrying two lesbian couples in 2005.

Despite the Governator’s vocal opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in California, the amendment’s sponsors say they’ve gathered enough signatures to place it on the Nov. ballot.

The ACLU is gearing up for a fight against the Peace Corps for banning an HIV-positive man from finishing his service.

Colorado legislation to ban sexual orientation discrimination in housing and credit should move from the Senate to the House this week. The progress didn’t come without heated debate, including one GOP Senator mocking the bill by attempting to add a provision to ban discrimination against short people.

A much-publicized report in Vermont by a commission charged with studying the future of gay marriage suggests that marriage equality would be good for the state, but stops short of recommending it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Morning Sweep

At a campaign stop in Pennsylvania over the weekend, Obama said that even though he’s not in favor of gay marriage, he opposes the state’s possible legislation to prohibit it.

But The Advocate isn’t letting Obama off the hook just yet: a guest writer’s open letter challenges the way that he connects his disapproval for gay marriage to his Christian beliefs.

And in case that isn’t enough Obama confusion for the day, the Washington Blade has reached the conclusion that despite all this, he’s still the best candidate on LGBT issues.

Since you’re reading this, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that a new poll shows that gays read blogs more often than their straight friends. Also not surprisingly, blogs play a huge role in how the gay media has evolved over the years.

The New York Times profiles the first two gay students accepted to the Jewish Theological Seminary a year ago.

And in the Times’ “Modern Love” column, a lesbian reflects on experiencing “divorce equality.”

Although many Marylanders had high hopes that legislators would soon approve gay rights bills, the legislative session has ended without much progress on LGBT issues. Here’s an interesting analysis of why and what’s to come.

Another LGBT victory in South America: Colombia’s high court has ruled that the government must grant pension benefits to same-sex partners.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Morning Sweep

Representatives from the NY Rangers and Madison Square Garden have finally met with gay advocacy groups to address concerns about homophobic slurs regularly shouted during hockey games.

A fascinating new book of photographs examines LGBT youth living in a Hell’s Kitchen homeless shelter.

In a first-person piece in The Advocate, “Good As You” blogger Jeremy Hooper reveals his strategy to ending homophobia: to befriend instead of belittle anti-gay activists.

New Passover traditions include gay-friendly seders and political and feminist discussions.

Uruguay has become the first Latin American country to marry a gay couple under a new law that allows them to enter civil unions if they’ve cohabitated for more than 5 years.

GLSEN’s blog has some great insight and information on the national Day Of Silence (coming up on April 25).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Industries lead the way for LGBT diversity and inclusion

On Tuesday night, Pride In My Workplace held the second of a series of three workshops highlighting how employees in New York are advancing workplace equality for the LGBT community. Held at the Credit Suisse building in Manhattan, the workshop had more than 60 LGBT and ally business leaders in attendance who came from all industries, including fashion, banking, pharmaceutical, technology, media, and real estate. Attendees heard from Antonio Centeno, Operations Analyst from Credit Suisse, and Carmine Boccuzzi, Attorney from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Moderating (and providing comedic relief) was Craig Senecal, Director of Associate Learning and Development from Macy’s East.

From left to right: Carmine Boccuzzi, Antonio Centeno, Wazina Zondon (Pride In My Workplace Coordinator, Pride Agenda), and Craig Senecal.

The panel discussed how to get companies to “buy in” to LGBT employee networks, resource groups and affinity groups. Panelists provided great banking, legal and fashion perspectives on how to be persuasive in each of their fields. All agreed that it helps to make a case for the bottom line – the dollars and talent that an inclusive atmosphere can bring to a company.

Also, in today’s ultra-competitive economy, panelists agreed that it’s important for companies to be the best in their industries – an impossible feat if they’re behind their competitors, clients or customers when it comes to LGBT employee non-discrimination policies and other “best practices.” Being the best makes for an easier time recruiting top-notch employees from universities and competitors, and it assures clients and customers that a company is the right choice for their business. Finally, panelists talked about their networks’ challenges for the future, including focusing on the “T” (transgender) in LGBT equality and expanding their presence in the workplace.

The Pride Agenda received great feedback from the event, but don’t worry if you missed out – there’s still plenty of time to sign up for the third workshop on May 19. The event will be held at Macy’s East (151 W. 34th St.) from 6:30-8:30, and the topic will be “Best Practices In Action: Building Broader LGBT Networks.” Marla Hassner, Vice President from Lehman Brothers, will moderate, and panelists will include business leaders from Macy’s East, Coldwell Banker Previews International/Manhattan Chamber of Commerce LGBT-2-B, and HRC Business Council. To RSVP, e-mail Wazina Zondon at or call (212) 627-0305 for more information.

Morning Sweep

Transgender rights activists and supporters from 29 states were in Washington, D.C. this week lobbying legislators to end discrimination.

A former Assistant Secretary of Defense who served under Ronald Reagan testified at a government hearing yesterday that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is critical to the success of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Virginia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear testimony today in a high-profile custody dispute between a former lesbian couple.

Anti-gay Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern should have known homophobia is bad for business: a San Francisco-based financial services company that was possibly planning to relocate to Oklahoma City may now be reconsidering due to her recent remarks. Payback!

The Houston Chronicle profiles Judy Shepard, gay-rights activist and mother of Matthew, whose gay-bashing murder shocked the country nearly 10 years ago.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Morning Sweep

In light of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s recent pro-gay comments, the Huffington Post examines the possibility of same-sex marriage soon becoming a reality in California.

Even though the nation was shocked by the murder of openly-gay eighth-grader Lawrence King by his classmate in February, A coalition of LGBT advocates is urging prosecutors to try 14-year-old Brandon McInerney in juvenile court instead of as an adult.

Many gay couples in civil unions or marriages have difficulty getting divorced after moving to states that don’t recognize their unions.

The Advocate speculates on some of Obama’s and Clinton’s possible LGBT appointees should they be elected President.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Equality & Justice Day: Coming Soon to a Capitol Near You

On the last Tuesday of April, hundreds of LGBT New Yorkers and allies will play hooky from work, school and the daily grind – but don’t worry, it’s for an important reason! April 29th is Equality and Justice Day, our annual trip to Albany to make our voices heard. We’ll be lobbying state lawmakers on issues like marriage equality, outlawing discrimination against transgender New Yorkers, and safe schools for LGBT youth.

We’ve also got a massive statewide rally planned for 11:45 a.m., with powerful speakers like Donna Rose (a transgender activist), Kelli Conlin (from NARAL Pro-Choice NY), H. Alexander Robinson (from the National Black Justice Coalition), Rev. David Parsons (from Lutherans Concerned), and of course, our own Alan Van Capelle. Before the rally, attendees will have the chance to draw some inspiration from our interfaith service, or meet new people from all corners of the state at our caucuses for people of color, youth, college students, the aging, and transgender New Yorkers.

For those of you who can’t make it, we’ll be live-blogging on April 29, so you can check with us throughout the day for updates and photos. But why not just come with us to Albany? Registration is still open until this Friday, April 17, so sign up now!

Morning Sweep

A thought-provoking story in The Washington Post discusses new ways that parents are talking to their kids about sexuality in an era where topics often considered “adult” - including LGBT issues – are pervasive in the media.

With gay students coming out at younger ages, some smart universities are putting a focused effort into recruiting LGBT students.

Add Illinois to the list of states where petitioners are trying to get an amendment banning same-sex marriage onto the Nov. ballot.

Business Week has added the topic of gay marriage to its “Debate Room” coverage of current issues facing the country.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Morning Sweep

Gay Catholics protested the Pope’s upcoming arrival this past weekend, and will continue demonstrations throughout the week.

Clinton and Obama spoke about their faith at this past weekend’s Compassion Forum held at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. Neither candidate addressed the school’s anti-gay policies.

Despite his efforts to cultivate an “independent” image, the AP reports that John McCain’s record on issues including gay rights is staunchly conservative.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he will fight against an amendment to ban gay marriage if it makes it onto the November ballot in his state.

Apparently, being victimized in your home country just because you’re gay doesn’t make you eligible for asylum in Canada or Australia.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Morning Sweep

A recent GLSEN study found that LGBT parents are more likely to be involved in their children’s education, including participating in school activities and communicating with school personnel.

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are considering a state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman exclusively.

Arizona lawmakers are at it again: after a bill to advance a referendum on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages was rejected last week, yet another bill to do the same has been introduced this week. Enough already!

Also in the Grand Canyon state, gay rights supporters are currently petitioning for a measure on the November ballot to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In states that offer same-sex marriage and civil unions, gay weddings and ceremonies have become a lucrative industry.

With Tax Day looming near, gay couples face difficulties and complications in filing.

The Red Cross in Thailand announced it will no longer ask potential blood donors questions about their sexual orientation to screen out possible carriers of diseases such as AIDS. If only the U.S. would follow suit.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

NYS Budget Benefits LGBT Health and Human Services

Members of the New York State LGBT Health and Human Services Network (the Network) will receive almost $8 million from the 2008-2009 New York State Budget, which was passed yesterday. Governor Paterson’s Executive Budget provides $5.89 million and the Assembly provided $2.084 million from its discretionary funding.

The Assembly increased its base level of support from $1.373 million in past years to $2.084 million. It’s significant to note that in an uncertain fiscal climate, the Governor and Assembly still recognize the important work that community-based organizations do to ensure that LGBT New Yorkers’ health and human services needs are met.

Most of the funding will go directly to Network member organizations, which provide services to more than 600,000 New Yorkers in 54 of the state’s 62 counties.

Services that Network members provide include: primary and preventative care; mental health treatment; alcohol and substance abuse treatment; homeless youth services; violence prevention and crime victim assistance; and other critical human services. The LGBT population reached by the Network is also diverse and includes traditionally marginalized groups within the LGBT community including seniors, people of color, youth, low income individuals, and crime victims.

Morning Sweep

In an exclusive interview with The Advocate, Barack Obama reaffirms his support for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (though he won’t make it a “litmus test” for hiring Joint Chiefs), passing ENDA, and extending federal benefits to same-sex couples with civil unions.

Catholic NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn will attend the Pope’s mass at Yankee Stadium next week, despite the church’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Detroit has become the latest city to add gender identity to its nondiscrimination policies.

A conservative religious group in Maine is petitioning to put a referendum on the November ballot that would limit marriage to straight couples and prohibit civil unions for same-sex couples.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Morning Sweep

Even though an investigation is still underway, four Rochester police officers accused in an alleged gay bashing attack last June went back to work yesterday.

Obama may not have slighted the gay press after all – The Advocate announces that it will publish an interview with the candidate tomorrow.

Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” makes it impossible to know for sure, a University of California think-tank estimates that 64 LGBT servicemembers have died so far in Iraq.

Four HIV-positive men in Egypt have been convicted of being homosexual and sentenced to three years in prison in a controversial and widely publicized trial.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Governor Paterson speaks out on marriage equality, safe schools and transgender protections

Last night several of us from the Pride Agenda attended the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s New York Leadership Awards dinner in New York City where Governor David Paterson was honored for his longstanding work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

The Pride Agenda’s Executive Director Alan Van Capelle was to have introduced the Governor to the crowd, but due to ongoing budget negotiations in Albany the Governor was unable to attend. Instead Alan introduced top Paterson aide Sean Maloney who accepted the award on behalf of the Governor. After brief remarks, Maloney let the Governor do the rest of the talking through his video message, which as you will see is both humorous and heartfelt.

Not only did Governor Paterson renew his vow “to push on until we bring full marriage equality to New York state,” he also promised to fight for an end to bullying in schools due to bias and discrimination protections for transgender New Yorkers -- all issues well over 1000 New Yorkers will be traveling to Albany on April 29 to talk about with their legislators as part of our annual Equality & Justice Day.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Morning Sweep

In telling the heartbreaking story of a 15-year old gay teen from Upstate New York who is now living homeless on the Upper West Side, the Columbia Spectator reminds us that LGBT youth who are cast out on the streets are more likely to be victims of violence and have few options for help.

A high school in Binghamton is one of the targets of a campaign by anti-gay Christian groups to disrupt the annual "Day of Silence," which serves as a powerful reminder of the harassment that LGBT students face in schools on a daily basis.

An openly gay Rochester-area science teacher has been named NYSUT's 2008 "Teacher of the Year."

Barack Obama is getting some flack because he didn't grant an interview to Philadelphia Gay News, while Hillary Clinton did.

Friday, April 4, 2008

120,000 more New Yorkers for GENDA

Candace Lider, Troy Area Labor Council Secretary, speaks in support of GENDA at the CDALF annual convention

Last weekend at the Capitol District Area Labor Federation’s annual convention, delegates voted resoundingly to pass a resolution in support of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).

GENDA would add gender identity and expression to the list of protected classes in the state’s civil rights law, and would therefore make it illegal to fire someone from their job, kick them out of their home or deny them service in a restaurant (among other things) simply because they are transgender.

The Capitol District Area Labor Federation (CDALF) encompasses five counties in the Albany area and represents 120,000 people working in blue collar and white collar professions, including teachers, civil service employees, bricklayers, firefighters, nurses and plumbers, just to name a few.

Union support for this bill is significant—during the build-up to the Assembly vote on marriage equality last year, unions across New York State representing more than 1 million people passed resolutions detailing their support for the bill. When massive labor federations and big unions like 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East or UNITE HERE actively support our issues, Albany takes notice.

CDALF’s 120,000 members brings the total organized labor support for GENDA to 440,000 working New Yorkers. Stronger together, indeed!

Morning Sweep

Hillary Clinton talked to the Philadelphia Gay News about her support for a number of gay issues, including the need to eliminate federal policies that discriminate against same-sex couples. Barack Obama and John McCain both refused interviews with the paper.

The massive archive of LGBT community history at the New York Public Library is finally getting organized and endowed.

Gay City News reports on the mixed reactions by LGBT and HIV/AIDS groups in New York to the 2008-09 New York State Budget.

Florent, a longtime favorite restaurant of NYC's gay community, will close for good in the Meatpacking District on Sunday, June 29--the day of the annual Pride March.

Gay marriage opponents suffered a major defeat in the Arizona State Legislature yesterday, when the state's House of Representatives rejected a bill that would have advanced a referendum on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. Schadenfreude!

Finland has just appointed an actively pro-gay Foreign Affairs Minister.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Is this the year the Family Court access bill becomes law?

After passing the Assembly two weeks ago, a bill opening Family Court to domestic partners and other unmarried people was approved this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee. With movement in both chambers of the Legislature, advocates of this long-stalled measure are beginning to believe this may finally be the year this bill becomes law.

So how does this affect the LGBT community?

Well, believe it or not, New York is the only state in the country – yes the only state -- that limits the umbrella of protections it provides to victims of domestic violence to people who are married, have been married, or who legally share a child. This means states like Mississippi and Louisiana are more progressive than New York in how they treat unmarried partners in situations when domestic violence occurs.

This bill expands New York’s restrictive definition of “who is family” to include domestic partners and people in dating relationships – both same-sex and opposite-sex -- so that they, like married couples, will have access to Family Court and the protections it provides. The practical effect of this bill is significant.

For a married couple in an abusive relationship, the person being abused can obtain an order of protection from family court without initiating criminal procedures, which most abused parties do not want to do for a variety of reasons. Family court also has the ability to issue orders of protection that exclude the abuser from the common residence and can mobilize other types of social services aimed at addressing the situation.

Currently in New York for a same-sex couple, or any unmarried couple who does not share a child, the individual being abused has no recourse but criminal court and must find a district attorney willing to initiate criminal proceedings before any order of protection can be issued. Criminal court also has no ability to issue an order of protection that keeps the abuser out of the common residence nor can it mobilize any social services that may be helpful.

In short, family court is structured to deal with problems that are unique to two people who share an intimate relationship while criminal court is not.

There was real hope in 2001 and 2002 that this issue would be dealt with once and for all as part of larger bills dealing with domestic violence -- but it never happened. Since then the Assembly has continued to pass its bill sponsored by Assemblymember Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) while things have been much quieter over on the Senate side. This year, though, a Republican in the Senate became the bill’s prime sponsor -- Senator George Winner (R-Elmira). Those who follow politics are speculating this means there is a new willingness on the part of the State Senate to get this done.

We certainly hope so.

Now that the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the bill, the only thing left is for the Senate to vote on it. We sent out an action alert this week asking everyone to call their State Senator to urge them to get the bill to the floor for a vote.

It’s way overdue for New York to catch up with the other forty-nine states when it comes to domestic violence and who is protected.

Morning Sweep

While speaking to students at Skidmore College, former Attorney General John Ashcroft said gays don’t deserve the “special status” of marriage because they aren’t “likely to produce the next generation.”

Verizon, a company lauded for it’s commitment to diversity, doesn’t believe gender identity and expression should be included in its employee non-discrimination policy.

A former assistant U.S. Attorney may have been fired due to rumors she’s a lesbian.

Missouri State Senator wants to stop the state court from granting an annulment to a lesbian married in Massachusetts.

Proving many critics wrong, the Church of Christ has seen an increase in donations since it declared its support for same-sex marriage in 2005.

Poland’s government has approved the European Union's proposed charter of rights, but with a provision that could allow the country to ignore guarantees of equal rights for gays and lesbians.

A trans woman who claims she was placed in a male jail facility in Washington, D.C. and ridiculed by corrections officers will file charges.

Claiming that sex reassignment surgeries pose a threat to underage boys, Thailand’s Health Ministry has temporarily banned all castrations performed for non-medical purposes.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Morning Sweep

John McCain says he won’t try to soften the GOP’s position on gay issues.

Barack Obama might be linked to yet another homophobic pastor.

Senator Ted Kennedy plans to push the Senate to vote on the controversial trans-exclusive version of the ENDA bill.

The Oklahoman addresses state rep. Sally Kern’s recent homophobic statements in an editorial.

The national union representing workers in the textile, clothing, hotel and restaurant industries joins the fight for LGBT marriage equality.

California activists claim they are close to collecting all of the signatures needed to put an amendment banning same-sex marriage on the Nov. ballot.

In a step forward, an Arizona regulatory panel has approved domestic partner benefits for state employees.

But in a step back, some Oregon legislators plan to petition to repeal domestic partnership laws that were passed last year.

Unfortunately, state civil unions don’t help LGBT partners of non-U.S. citizens, who face extreme difficulty staying together without the protections of marriage.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples get another boost in New York

Last week a mid-level court in New York wiped a lower court decision off the books saying that Bradley Davis was not entitled to spousal health insurance benefits even though he and his spouse, Duke Funderburke, were lawfully married in Canada.

Funderburke had asked that his retirement benefits from Uniondale School District in Nassau County be extended to Davis and he was refused. He filed a lawsuit and a trial court ruled in favor of the school district. However at the time of Funderburke’s appeal of this decision, the Pride Agenda was successful in getting the New York State Department of Civil Service to extend partner benefits to state and local employees legally married to a same-sex spouse. Funderburke and all other employees of the Uniondale School District receive their benefits though the Department of Civil Service’s health plan so despite the ruling against Funderburke, his spouse became eligible for health insurance coverage.

This positive change in providing employee benefits made Funderburke’s case moot. Unfortunately, the court decision sat there as a negative precedent. Last week’s decision to wipe Funderburke off the books is a good one because now it no longer exists and makes it impossible for opponents to use Funderburke as legal justification for any future actions they might take in this area.

Funderburke was one of five cases moving through New York’s court system addressing the issue of out-of-state marriage of same-sex couples. With Funderburke gone, the number goes down to four.

The binding decision right now on the issue of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples remains the appellate level 5-0 Martinez decision out of Monroe County saying these marriages are legal. The remaining three cases have all had favorable lower court decisions.

Our thanks go to Lambda Legal for cleaning this up and for all the work they do with our state’s judicial system making sure our marriages from places like Canada carry the same clout here in New York as anyone else’s out-of-state marriage.

Morning Sweep

Even though it’s standard for members of Congress to bring their spouses on military flights, openly gay Rep. Tammy Baldwin recently needed a special appeal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring her partner onboard.

More proof of why we need ENDA: A city council candidate in Plano, Texas (a state without any anti-discrimination laws) might be fired from his county job just because he’s gay.

Wanting to leave a lasting legacy, an increasing number of older LGBT individuals are making donations to organizations that support the cause.

The Irish government will soon introduce civil-union legislation.

The European Union’s highest court ruled that same-sex couples in countries that recognize civil unions are entitled to their dead partner’s pensions.