Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gov. Paterson refers to LGBT issues in State of the State address

Ross Levi, our Director of Public Policy and Education, is at it again (two posts in one week!) and this time dicussing Governor Paterson's inclusion of LGBT issues in the State of the State address, delivered yesterday in the State Capitol.

It’s been a few years since LGBT issues were referenced in the New York Governor’s State of the State Address. The last time we could recall was Governor Pataki’s mention of hate crimes and the Sexual Orientation of the Non-Discrimination Act in 2002. So we were thrilled to hear Governor Paterson’s discussion about community in his speech. The beginning parts of that “Community” section were written in his prepared comments as follows:

"Particularly in these difficult economic times, we must make sure that we
respect one another, serve one another and protect one another.

It saddens me to report that, over the past few months, we have failed. In Suffolk County, in Brooklyn and in Syracuse, our residents have suffered brutal murders provoked by ignorance, intolerance, and hate. As we sift through the fallout from these awful crimes, we must make one thing plain: hate has no place in the Empire State.

I call upon all parents to increase their efforts to teach their children respect for all people – no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin. And we in State government must strengthen our school-based curriculum to reinforce the critical message of acceptance and tolerance.”

We think Governor Paterson deserves great praise for bringing attention to the horrible murder of a transgender woman in Syracuse, and the beating and resulting death of a Brooklyn man accompanied by anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs. The Governor’s call for a school-based curriculum to address intolerance we think is a direct reference to the Dignity for All Students Act, whose passage after many years of one-house movement in the Assembly should now be a no-brainer in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. We see all these comments as evidence of Governor Paterson’s continued commitment to civil rights legislation.

We were also heartened to hear the Governor’s discuss his philosophy on health care, which is the model that has been championed for years by the NYS LGBT Health and Human Service Network, coordinated by the Pride Agenda. The Governor said:

“[W]e still incentivize the wrong care in the wrong setting at the wrong price. Where we are overpaying for inpatient or institutional care, we must shift funding to primary, preventive and community-based care.”

We couldn’t agree more. Health and human services are best provided early on and by and among the community that best understands the need. This is exactly the sort of care provided by the over fifty Network groups who provide health and human services to the LGBT community literally all across New York State.

The Governor has so far put his money where his mouth is and continued strong budgetary support for LGBT health and human services in his recent Executive budget. The Pride Agenda and the members of the Network will continuing to work throughout the budget process to maintain and expand state support for these vital community services.

The Governor’s line about hate having no place in New York received a standing ovation from the legislature and other audience members in the Assembly chamber. We hope this as a positive sign that there may be an increasingly receptive environment for passage of legislation to benefit the LGBT community here in New York State, most notably marriage equality and the transgender civil rights bill, GENDA.

Click here for the full text of Gov. Paterson's State of the State address.

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