Thursday, April 30, 2009

Morning Sweep

Paul Schindler’s Gay City News coverage of Equality & Justice Day takes a comprehensive look at what was accomplished on April 28 and the work still to come in the fight for marriage equality, the Dignity for All Students Act and GENDA.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the federal hate crimes bill yesterday, 249-175.

New Hampshire has moved a step closer to passing a marriage equality bill, with both the Senate and House passing their own versions. The bills must now be reconciled before the legislation can go to Gov. Lynch, who is against same-sex marriage but has not indicated whether he will veto it.

Unfortunately, NH has also unanimously voted down the state’s gender identity non-discrimination bill. Looks like there's still much work to be done in The Granite State...

A marriage equality vote in Maine’s Senate will likely happen soon.

There’s lots of buzz about Howard Stern’s statement of support for marriage for same-sex couples on his show yesterday. (Warning: his declaration of acceptance is far from PC…but then again, it’s Howard Stern, so that’s a given).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Equality & Justice Day 2009

Thank you to everyone who helped make LGBT Equality & Justice Day 2009 our most successful lobby day ever! Two thousand of you came to show Albany the power of our community, and your efforts did not go unnoticed – this year’s E&J Day received more coverage in the media than ever before. The following are a few photos from the day and links to just a sampling of the stories written and broadcast across the state:

New York Magazine’s Chris Rovzar attended the full day and covered the morning speeches and afternoon rally.

Several blogs noted the standing ovation given to the Governor when he spoke during the morning program.

The Troy Record has a great collection of video clips from the rally.

Gannett News
wrote on the rally and LBGT activists’ lobbying efforts.

Capitol Confidential highlights some of Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle’s best morning comments. They also noted the important point that on E&J Day, LGBT rights advocates lobby both legislators who are already good on our issues and those who aren’t there yet.

has great broadcast coverage of the day (here and here), as does Capital News 9.

Fox News in Albany highlighted Republican Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward’s comments at the rally.

WNYC radio also covered the full day (here and here).

The AP’s coverage of E&J Day is short and to-the-point.

Were you at Equality & Justice Day? Share your stories and feedback in the comments of this post!

Morning Sweep (Recap Edition)

Since we've been so focused on preparing for yesterday's Equality & Justice Day, we wanted to update you on everything else going on in the news that we've neglected to mention in the last few days. And we'll be posting soon with pictures and news coverage from E&J Day!

Obama has released a statement urging the passage of the federal hate crimes act.

The New York Times reports that as many Republicans are shifting their views on marriage for same-sex couples, the party is searching for ways to accommodate changing attitudes.

Politico reports that while Beltway Republicans may be searching for a more moderate stance, many state-level Republicans are taking a harder line against same-sex marriage.

Marriage for same-sex couples began on Monday in Iowa, with nearly 400 couples applying for licenses on the first day.

A former Army Special Forces commander has won her lawsuit against the Library of Congress, where she was rejected from a job while transitioning.

Fortune Small Business (via CNN News) has a great, comprehensive story on issues surrounding employees transitioning in the workplace, especially at small businesses. Click here to read the Pride Agenda’s recently-released report on transgender issues in the workplace, including success stories from employers and employees across New York State.

Last weekend’s Modern Love column in the New York Times dealt with issues that transgender parents face.

Executive Directors of The Trevor Project and GLSEN discuss anti-gay bullying in schools in the wake of the tragic suicides of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Herrera.

Efforts to allow gays and lesbians to serve as clergy in the Presbyterian church have been defeated again, but the vote was closer than in past years.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Morning Sweep

Students at Cornell are rallying behind a fellow student who was asked to step down from his leadership role in a campus Christian group after he told them he had accepted his homosexuality.

New Hampshire’s Senate judiciary committee has recommended against the state’s marriage equality bill, but the full Senate will still have the opportunity to vote on it. The vote has already passed in the state’s House of Representatives.

Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell has become the first Gov. to sign a same-sex marriage bill into law after the CT legislature voted to align state statues with the recent Supreme Court decision allowing for marriage equality there.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Morning Sweep

The Plattsburgh Press Republican and Syracuse Post-Standard both editorialized in favor of marriage equality today.

The Gov.’s marriage equality bill has been formally introduced in the NYS Assembly and Senate.

A New York Times science blog writes that a popular 1979 book on the success of “gay conversion” was largely fabricated.

The man accused of killing Colo. trans woman Angie Zapata has been convicted of first-degree murder and a hate crime and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Washington has added gender identity and expression to its hate crimes law.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Assembly passes GENDA: Vote tally

Yesterday, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) passed the NYS Assembly 97-38. The bill now heads to the New York Senate. GENDA (A.5710/S.2406) would provides civil rights protections for transgender New Yorkers by banning discrimination in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and other areas of everyday life.

The official vote tally is below. Click here to find out who your Assemblymember is.

Y = yes, N = no, Abs = absent D = Democrat, R = Republican

N Abbate, Jr. (D)
Y Alessi (D)
Abs Alfano (R)
N Amedore (R)
Abs Arroyo (D)
Y Aubry (D)
N Bacalles (R)
N Ball (R)
N Barclay (R)
N Barra (R)
Y Barron (D)
Abs Benedetto (D)
N Benjamin (D)
Y Bing (D)
Y Boyland, Jr. (D)
Y Boyle (R)
Y Bradley (D)
Y Brennan (D)
Y Brodsky (D)
Y Brook-Krasny (D)
N Burling (R)
N Butler (R)
Y Cahill (D)
Abs Calhoun (R)
N Camara (D)
Y Canestrari (D)
Abs Carrozza (D)
Y Castro (D)
Y Christensen (D)
Abs Clark (D)
Y Colton (D)
Y Conte (R)
Y Cook (D)
N Corwin (R)
N Crouch (R)
N Cusick (D)
Y Cymbrowitz (D)
Y DelMonte (D)
Y DenDekker (D)
Y Destito (D)
Abs Diaz, Jr. (D)
Abs Dinowitz (D)
Y Duprey (R)
Y Eddington (D)
Y Englebright (D)
N Errigo (R)
Abs Espaillat (D)
Y Farrell, Jr. (D)
Y Fields (D)
N Finch (R)
N Fitzpatrick (R)
Y Gabryszak (D)
Y Galef (D)
Y Gantt (D)
Y Gianaris (D)
N Giglio (R)
Y Glick (D)
Y Gordon, T (I)
Y Gottfried (D)
Abs Greene, A (D)
Y Gunther (D)
N Hawley (R)
N Hayes (R)
Abs Heastie (D)
Y Hevesi (D)
N Hikind (D)
Y Hooper (D)
Y Hoyt (D)
Y Hyer-Spencer (D)
Y Jacobs (D)
Y Jaffee (D)
Y Jeffries (D)
Y John (D)
N Jordan (R)
Y Kavanagh (D)
Y Kellner (D)
N Kolb (R)
Y Koon (D)
Y Lancman (D)
Y Latimer (D)
Y Lavine (D)
Y Lentol (D)
Y Lifton (D)
N Lopez, P (R)
Y Lopez, V (D)
Y Lupardo (D)
Y Magee, W (D)
Y Magnarelli (D)
Y Maisel (D)
Y Markey (D)
Y Mayersohn (D)
N McDonough (R)
Y McEneny (D)
N McKevitt (R)
Y Meng (D)
Y Miller (R)
Y Millman (D)
N Molinaro (R)
Y Morelle (D)
Y Nolan (D)
Y O'Donnell (D)
N O'Mara (R)
N Oaks (R)
Y Ortiz (D)
Y Parment (D)
Y Paulin (D)
Y Peoples (D)
Y Peralta (D)
Y Perry (D)
Y Pheffer (D)
Abs Powell, IV (D)
Y Pretlow (D)
N Quinn (R)
N Rabbitt (R)
N Raia (R)
Y Ramos (D)
N Reilich (R)
Y Reilly (D)
Abs Rivera, J (D)
Y Rivera, N (D)
Y Rivera, P (D)
Y Robinson (D)
Y Rosenthal (D)
Y Russell (D)
N Saladino (R)
Y Sayward (R)
Y Scarborough (D)
Y Schimel (D)
N Schimminger (D)
Abs Schroeder (D)
Y Scozzafava (R)
N Seminerio (D)
Y Silver (D)
Y Skartados (D)
Y Spano (D)
Y Stirpe (D)
Y Sweeney (D)
N Tedisco (R)
Y Thiele (R)
Y Titone (D)
Y Titus (D)
N Tobacco (R)
Y Towns (D)
N Townsend (R)
Abs Walker (R)
Y Weinstein (D)
Y Weisenberg (D)
Y Weprin (D)
Y Wright, K (D)
Y Zebrowski (D)

Morning Sweep

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) passed yesterday in the New York State Assembly – now on to the Senate! GENDA provides crucial civil rights protections for transgender New Yorkers by banning discrimination in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and other areas of everyday life.

The Boston Globe and Gay City News write on “Marriage Equality & Religion: The Massachusetts Experience,” the video we released yesterday that dispels the myth that marriage for same-sex couples somehow negatively affects religious freedom.

Bill Hammond writes in a Daily News opinions column that civil unions are no substitute for marriage: “Imagine getting down on one knee and saying, ‘Will you civilly unite with me?’”

ABC News reports on the lack of any real backlash on a national level against marriage for same-sex couples spreading to several states.

The Senate sponsor of Maine’s marriage equality bill received a standing ovation at this morning’s hearing.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, known for his great record on LGBT advocacy, has formally announced his plans to run for California Governor.

Just weeks after the suicide of an 11-year-old from Massachusetts who suffered from bullying in school, a second 11-year-old from Georgia has taken his life. The anti-gay bullying that both experienced is bringing national attention to the need for better protections against harassment of students by their peers – including this Boston Globe editorial.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Marriage Equality & Religion: The Massachusetts Experience

One of the most dominant myths used by forces opposed to marriage equality is that allowing same-sex couples to marry would somehow negatively affect religious institutions or apply restrictions to their freedom to worship as they choose. Although this myth is patently false, that has not stopped some opponents from using the claim to lead people to believe their religious freedom is in danger.

Fortunately, in New York, we do not need to speculate on how religious institutions, spiritual life and the freedom to worship will be affected if the state passes a law allowing same-sex couples to marry. New York needs only to look to our neighbor to the east, Massachusetts — where marriages for same-sex couples have been legal since 2004 — to see that the worries about such a law negatively impacting people of faith have been unfounded.

The video below features three Massachusetts clergy members speaking firsthand on how marriage equality for same-sex couples has not negatively affected their congregations.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Morning Sweep

The newest Siena poll shows that a majority of New Yorkers support marriage for same-sex couples. Read the Pride Agenda’s statement on the results here.

The Long Island Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Services Network honored Harvey Milk this past weekend "to draw attention of gays and lesbians with small-town roots."

Steve Schmidt, a former senior adviser to John McCain and a former top Bush aide, supports marriage for same-sex couples and has urged to GOP to rethink its stance.

The GLAAD Media Awards were this past weekend. Comedian Kathy Griffin and Bishop Gene Robinson were honored.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Morning Sweep

Much has been written about Gov. Paterson’s introduction of the marriage equality program bill yesterday.

Here are our videos of some of the speakers at yesterday’s press conference.

R News in Rochester has a great interview on the marriage bill with local advocates, including the Pride Agenda’s Western New York Program Organizer, Todd Plank.

The New York Times and Journal News editorialize in favor of the Gov.’s marriage bill.

A Democrat & Chronicle column highlights the important work of straight allies Jamie and Sally Whitbeck, who the Pride Agenda will be honoring at our Spring Dinner on May 16.

Earlier this week, the Westchester County Board of Legislators voted to change the definition of the word “gender” in its Human Rights Law to prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

A New York Times opinion piece discusses the use of anti-gay slurs in youth male culture.

Today is GLSEN’s Day of Silence.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gov. Paterson introduces marriage equality program bill

The Pride Agenda just released the following statement by Executive Director Alan Van Capelle on Gov. Paterson's introduction of a marriage equality program bill today:

“We very much appreciate Governor Paterson introducing a marriage equality program bill into the legislature and continuing the momentum that has been growing on this important issue over the past several weeks. For a long time the governor has been a vocal advocate for passing legislation that would provide same-sex couples and our families the 1,324 rights and responsibilities that come with a New York State marriage license.

When the marriage bill passed in the State Assembly in 2007, Governor Paterson played an instrumental role in securing the needed votes in the moments leading up to the floor debate. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 85-61 and every single Assemblymember who voted for marriage on that night—Democrat and Republican—won their reelection last November. The Assembly and the Governor are on record in support of this bill, and a majority of New Yorkers support this bill. Now it’s time for the State Senate to get in line with the rest of New York.

There are now more than two months left before the end of the legislative session. During this time, our community will continue to talk to their State Senators at home where they live and in Albany to let them know how important this issue is and how it affects New York families in all corners of the state. This is how we have been successful in building support in the past and I am confident that this is how we will earn the support that we need in to pass the bill in the State Senate this year.

Thousands of New Yorkers will be taking the day off from work and traveling from all parts of the state—from Buffalo to Brookhaven—to be in Albany with us on Tuesday, April 28. LGBT New Yorkers, our families and allies from the faith, organized labor and business communities will have face-to-face meetings with their State Senators to let them know that we expect them to pass the marriage bill this year. Our patience is running out because our families cannot wait any longer.”

Click here to email your Assemblymember and Senator to let them know you want them to support and pass the marriage equality bill.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Help shape LGBT health and human services in New York State!

Take a short survey on LGBT health and human services issues at and be a part of a historic statewide effort—the first in New York and perhaps the nation—to research and document the needs of LGBT New Yorkers to ensure those needs don’t go unaddressed by government and health and human service providers. The information you provide will go toward fighting for policy changes and funding to make services to LGBT people in New York equitable and LGBT-friendly.

This survey is open to all LGBT New Yorkers ages 18 and over, and should take only 10 minutes to complete. Please take the survey only once by Monday, April 20.

All participants are eligible to enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card with your completed survey! Information provided for the raffle will be confidential and not linked to your survey responses.

For more information or to receive paper surveys, e-mail Kimberly Eisen at

This survey is a project of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the NYS LGBT Health and Human Services Network, and Somjen Frazer Consulting.

Morning Sweep

Gov. Paterson will introduce his marriage equality program bill tomorrow. We’ll have more news for you then on what you can do to help make same-sex marriage a reality in New York State.

Newsday profiles same-sex couples who are eager for the protections of marriage.

GLSEN’s National Day of Silence is this Friday, April 17 -- and as usual, anti-LGBT religious groups are causing a fuss. The Day of Silence calls attention to bullying and harassment in schools across the country.

If you needed any proof of why efforts like the Day of Silence are so important, just watch this CNN story on anti-gay bullying in schools and the recent suicide of 11 year-year old Mass. student Carl Walker-Hoover.

The Washington Post interviews Lambda Legal and other experts on recent marriage equality advances across the country.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Equality & Justice Day - “Each year I gain more knowledge on the issues”

Below is the next in our series of E&J stories. See you at Equality & Justice Day on April 28!

Mollie DeMeio, Newburgh:

I first attended Equality and Justice Day in 2007 as a high school sophomore. I had lobbied in New York State before, so I thought I knew what to expect. I was so wrong. The Pride Agenda community and its supporters are fierce. They're so passionate, organized, intelligent and diverse. I was especially glad to see how many young people there were, all decked out in rainbow clothes waving signs in support of the Dignity for All Students Act, and others. I'd never before been surrounded by so many politically active queer people of all ages and walks of life.

This April will be my third consecutive E&J Day. Each year I gain more and more knowledge on the issues that affect our community and how to discuss them with my legislators. It's simple yet effective political engagement that I love, and of which I am very proud. I hope to continue attending E&J Day every year until either I move from New York, or until we no longer need to lobby the government for equality and justice!

Equality & Justice Day - “This is how it happens”

Below is the next in our series of E&J stories. We'll see you at Equality & Justice Day on April 28!

Jennifer Greene, Bellport, Long Island:

I attended E&J Day in 2008, and am glad I did! I went with a friend from my Unitarian Universalist congregation--and we had a GREAT time together on the bus ride.

As a straight ally, I felt my presence at E&J Day was very much valued and appreciated. I attended three legislator meetings, and it was good to be there showing my support and also hearing the stories of my fellow E&J Day attendees, which reinforced my own understanding of why these lobbying efforts are so important.

As a parent, I was able to relate my own teen's observations of anti-LGBT bias at his school. It's clear that harassment based on someone's perceived orientation or gender expression is a safety issue for all our schools. I also enjoyed mentioning GroundSpark's "It's Elementary" documentary in my legislator meetings as an excellent resource that I want them to be aware of. The young children in that film "get it" when it comes to treating people fairly; shouldn't we ALL "get it”?

Thanks again for the opportunity to participate in pushing our lawmakers toward positive change--this is how it happens. People power!

Morning Sweep

Timothy Dolan will become the Archbishop of New York today, and despite his not being perfect on our issues – he opposes same-sex marriage -- the Pride Agenda’s Alan Van Capelle says he looks forward to forming a dialogue with him. “My stance is one of conversation, not confrontation,” said Van Capelle. “There are many core values that we share.”

A NY appeals court has ruled that the former partner of the biological mother of a 5-year-old boy does not have visitation rights of the child, who she never legally adopted. The women had a civil union in Vermont and registered their relationship under New York City’s domestic partner law, but the court ruled that the partner has no right to seek visitation or custody “even though that party may have developed a long-standing, loving and nurturing relationship with the child.”

The New York Times Magazine features an extended story on the rising popularity of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which is based in Nigeria and popular among Nigerian immigrants in NYC. The Church preaches an intense intolerance of gays, encouraging members to denounce other gay congregants and blaming homosexuality for many of society’s problems.

In protest of rampant homophobia in Jamaica, demonstrators at Stonewall tomorrow night will dump the bar’s supplies of Red Stripe Beer and Myer's Rum.

A new gay Republican organization called GOProud has some interesting perspectives on what it means to be both gay and conservative.

Amazon’s “glitch” leading to the de-ranking of many LGBT books has become a major PR nightmare for the company.

A Huffington Post blogger argues humorously that it’s time for environmentalists to take note – all the paperwork gay couples have to file in lieu of legal marriage kills a lot of trees!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Morning Sweep

Will New Hampshire become the next state to pass a marriage bill? The State Assembly has already passed it, and the Senate will hold a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of doing the same. Democratic Gov. John Lynch opposes gay marriage but has not said whether he would veto the bill if it passes.

The New York Times writes on why same-sex marriage won’t likely be tackled by the U.S. Supreme Court any time soon.

LGBT rights advocates are hoping that the trial of the man accused of murdering Angie Zapata, a Colorado trans woman, will bring attention to the need for a federal hate crimes law.

The gay blogosphere is up in arms about an Amazon “glitch” that led to many LGBT books being de-ranked and classified as “adult literature.”

A right-wing Polish politician is upset that his country’s zoo spent $11 million on a “gay” elephant. The pachyderm prefers the company of other males and is aggressive toward females – a fact that apparently warrants national political attention. This stuff is too good to make up…

Friday, April 10, 2009

Assembly passes Dignity for All Students Act

In a bipartisan vote of 131-5, the New York State Assembly voted this week to pass the Dignity for All Students Act (A.3661 / S.1987), which would create safer schools for LGBT youth by prohibiting harassment and bullying based on traits including race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Dignity for All Students will put important mechanisms in place to keep LGBT students safe.

The Assembly first passed the Dignity for All Students Act in 2001, but this will be the first time that a pro-LGBT Majority in the New York State Senate will have the chance to vote on the bill.

Click here to see the official tally of who voted for/against Dignity in the Assembly (click here if you don't know your Assemblymember).

Happy Easter!

Even though this photo of Mark Enselman, our Director of Finance and Administration, pretty much speaks for itself, we thought we'd say "Happy Easter" (and Passover for our Jewish friends).

Equality & Justice Day - “We get to show them our families and our community”

Below is the last post in our series of E&J stories before TODAY'S deadline to register for E&J Day to guarantee your seat on a bus and your legislative visit.

Eileen Novack, Long Island:

When I first attended Equality and Justice Day back in 2006, I was not really sure what to expect. How many folks actually turn out for this thing? What are we supposed to do while spending the entire day in Albany? Is it worth it to spend hours getting to Albany, just to see your representatives for ten minutes? What am I going to say to them anyway? Why am I going?

What I found out was that the Empire State Pride Agenda does an excellent job organizing this event each year, and they have answers to all of those questions. I found that there were almost a thousand people in attendance that year and that there is plenty to see and do during the day – meetings on the issues and how to talk to your representatives, speakers and a rally, and the personal meetings with your Assemblymember and Senator.

I really liked the fact that on this day, the LGBT people of New York get to bring to our elected officials’ attention that we have borne the brunt of injustice for far too long. We get to remind them that we deserve the same rights and responsibilities that the non-LGBT community enjoys. We get to tell them that they are representing ALL of the people in their district, including us. We get to tell them our stories. We get to show them our families and our community. We get to ask them directly for their support, and we get to ask why if they don't give it.

This will be my fourth year attending. I don't ask why anymore. I just go.

Just go! Click here to register NOW for Equality & Justice Day - the deadline is today!

Morning Sweep

Gay City News writes on the Union Square demonstration in support of Vermont marriage, and advocates who want New York to be next heading to Equality & Justice Day on April 28.

Although the Governor’s same-sex marriage bill will be a step in the right direction, Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle clarifies that Paterson’s vote-and-see-what-happens statement isn’t ideal.

Liz Benjamin provides more insight into the Gov’s recent comments on his same-sex marriage bill.

The New York Times’ Susan Dominus writes humorously on our state’s slower-than-desired progress toward same-sex marriage.

Paul Peter Jesep, a Schenectady bishop in a branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, writes in the Albany Times-Union in support of marriage equality.

An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy who hanged himself after repeated anti-gay bullying in school is tragically shedding light on the issue through significant coverage by the LGBT media.

The Washington Post writes on the increasing number of anti-gay religious groups and individuals who are having their discriminatory practices struck down by state non-discrimination laws.

One polling expert has used some fancy stats to reveal his prediction that based on changing attitudes, most states will have same-sex marriage by 2016. Some might say it's fuzzy math – but it sounds good to us!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Equality & Justice Day – “We have a come a long way – but we still have a long way to go!”

Below is the next in our series of E&J stories. Register for E&J Day now -- There are just TWO DAYS left to sign up to be guaranteed a seat on a bus and a visit with your elected officials.

Greg Lewis, SAGE Upstate, Syracuse:

I would recommend that everyone in the LGBT community attend Equality and Justice Day in Albany on April 28, 2009. This will be my third year, and every time my partner and I go it gets more exciting -- mainly because each time we visit with our legislators it feels like we are getting closer and closer to our ultimate goals.

Greg Lewis (fifth from right), his partner Scott Milner (holding sign) and others from SAGE Upstate at Equality & Justice Day last year.

I think back to when I first came out at the Woodstock Rock Concert on August 18, 1969, and really marvel at the progress we have made in the gay community since the Stonewall riots in June of 1969. In those days, American gays and lesbians in the faced a legal system that was anti-homosexual. The last years of the 1960s were very contentious, as many social movements were active, including the Civil Rights Movement, the counterculture of the 1960s, the women’s movement, anti-Vietnam war demonstrations and of course the new “gay movement.” These influences served as catalysts for the Stonewall riots.

I can remember going to the gay bars in Syracuse, NY in the early 70s and the police would come in the bars, block off the front door and demand identification from all the patrons. While they were checking your ID, there were nasty and demeaning remarks being made by the police on the direction of the police chief. How could we even think about getting married when we couldn’t even go out and drink with our friends peacefully without harassment?

We have come a long way, “baby!” But we still have a long way to go!

Please join our contingency from Syracuse and from all around New York State to converge on Albany and make our voices heard to our legislators. There is power in numbers and you will feel extremely fulfilled having participated in this historic and important event. See you there.

Want to join us in Albany for Equality & Justice Day? Click here for more information or to register. Sign up now – the deadline to register to be guaranteed transportation and a legislative visit is April 10 – just two days away!

Morning Sweep

Pardon the lateness of our Morning Sweep. Our NYC office just got a new phone system, and despite our ability to communicate via blog, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, we're now stumped on how to make a voice call...

The New York Times provides insight from the leaders of gay rights organizations in New Jersey and New York – including the Pride Agenda’s Alan Van Capelle – on the progress of marriage equality legislation.

Gov. Paterson has announced his plan to introduce his own program bill for marriage equality in New York State. “It’s just another level of support that we anticipate and glad to have,” Alan Van Capelle said.

The Albany Times-Union editorializes in favor of gay rights in NY - the right to be counted in the Census and to be married - and expresses disappointment at the lack of legislative action.

Joe.My.God has pictures from last night’s Vermont marriage celebration at Union Square.

Because Congress has final oversight over measures passed by the Washington, D.C. City Council, the way it treats D.C.’s new measure to recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples could signal its attitude toward DOMA and other gay rights legislation.

A coalition of 38 LGBT and HIV advocacy groups is calling for the removal of the last-minute Bush Administration expansion of federal rules prohibiting discrimination against health care workers on the basis of religion.

The Obama administration has launched a new 5-year campaign to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

Hawaii’s civil unions bill appears to be dead in the water.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Equality & Justice Day - "Why not sign up?"

Below is the next post in our series of E&J stories. Check back for more – and don’t forget to register for E&J Day – the deadline is THIS FRIDAY to guarantee your bus seat and legislative visit!

Frank Cappadona, New City:

On my first Equality and Justice Day in 2008, I wondered, Why did I sign up?” Now, that day resides in my memory as a significant event for me, one of those times that I felt I was doing something in support of my gay child and of other people’s children, whether adult or otherwise, whether gay or otherwise. More importantly, I derived a kind of strength and satisfaction from that day--the kind that one gets when doing something that simultaneously feels good, just and honorable. I guess it’s as close as I could get to feeling spiritual without meditating or being in church. It was a feeling of community with over a thousand people, though I do not know 99 percent of them.

What got me to go to E&J Day last year was the idea of reasoning with legislators to do the right thing as well as to add to our numbers of supporters. Those are still good reasons for anyone to go. However, what’s getting me there this time is different. I want to show a face of one “plain-vanilla” person who wants equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers. In my case, that is a 60-something-year-old retiree, a Catholic, a husband, a father, a grandfather and one who now says, “Why not sign up?”

Why not, indeed? Join us in Albany for Equality & Justice Day -- click here to register. Sign up now – the deadline to be guaranteed transportation and a legislative visit is April 10!

Morning Sweep

The following stories appeared in today’s New York Times, which we’re affectionately calling the Rainbow Edition:

Vermont’s legislative victory for same-sex marriage is fueling the passion of advocates in New York.

The Times editorial board praises Vermont and says it’s time for NY & NJ to catch up.

For the 2010 Census, Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn have written to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke asking that the Census Bureau count legally married same-sex couples as “married,” instead of overriding their responses and counting them as “unmarried partners,” since federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages.

NYC has begun a new “Rainbow Pilgrimage” tourism campaign for gay and lesbian travelers in conjunction with the upcoming 40th anniversary of Stonewall.

Newly open gays in Iraq are facing a new wave of retribution, including a string of recent murders.

Gay City News writes on NY and NJ LGBT rights’ activists’ disappointment over our states falling behind in the battle for marriage equality.

New York’s Dignity for All Students Act to enact anti-bullying protections for LGBT youth in public schools has passed the State Assembly and will now go to the Senate.

Also writing on NYC’s new gay tourism outreach: the AP and am New York.

The Washington, D.C. City Council voted yesterday to extend full recognition to legally married same-sex couples, just like New York does.

In a gesture of inclusion to LGBT families, the Obama administration will include several in its annual Easter Egg Roll.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Equality & Justice Day – “I can act in solidarity”

Below is the fifth post in our series of E&J stories. Check back with us soon for more – and don’t forget to register for E&J Daythere are just four days left to register to guarantee your seat on a bus and your legislative visit.

Patty Bentley, United University Professions Union Member, North Country:

I go to Equality and Justice Day because I am passionate about equity and fairness. I go because I am secure both in my job and in my position as an out lesbian. I advocate for marriage equality because it is the only fair and just way to handle life partners and loving commitment among anyone, including same sex couples.

Two years ago, I asked to go to E&J Day as a member of my union and an active participant in our legislative advocacy. That year, I was the only member from my very large academic union -- but that is changing. I visited with my legislators, three upstate Republicans. The two Assemblymembers I met with were a total surprise. Assemblymember Teresa Sayward gave us an immediate signal of her intention to vote for all the bills under consideration, including marriage equality. She was compelling and wonderful in her explanation and emotional support for her son and his partner. Two weeks after that, she signed on as a sponsor of the bills (Marriage Equality, GENDA and Dignity for All Students). When the marriage equality bill came to the floor of the Assembly a few weeks later, she spoke from her heart on the floor of the Assembly and got a standing ovation from her colleagues.

When my Assemblywoman, Janet Duprey, voted against the bill then -- saying she did so because she didn’t feel she knew enough about the issue to vote otherwise -- I offered to bring some constituents to her local office and she eagerly accepted. She listened for over two hours to eleven people, each with a compelling and wonderful story about marriage equality and what it would mean to them. Six weeks later, I got a call from the Assemblywoman with the news that she was on board and would vote “yes” the next time the bill came to the Assembly. Not only was I encouraged about the eventual passage of real marriage equality for same-sex couples, but my faith in politics and politicians rose dramatically.

Last year I went to Equality & Justice Day again with a wonderful staff member from United University Professions (UUP). My Senator, Betty Little, was in committee, so we met with her Chief of Staff. I was impressed and moved by a gay couple from Glens Falls in my meeting who told the Chief of Staff that they wanted marriage equality in name and effect -- not a substitute like a civil union, domestic partnership or anything else.

For years I went to Albany and other cities for Pride events and enjoyed them immensely. They were political only in the sense of being out and visible and having a day, sometimes in the heat of June, to celebrate. I have become what, as a newly out lesbian in 1970, I abhorred: a “political lesbian” (a.k.a. “feminist”). So, I’ve come to believe that the Empire State Pride Agenda is the group that I need to be involved with at this point, because that is where I can be heard and make a difference. On E&J Day, I can act in solidarity with all the wonderful gays, lesbians, trans folk, queer and questioning, straight allies, youth, religious community, union members, workplace advocates, political activists and people new to advocacy -- all people who arrive to speak an be heard. It’s fun, it’s needed, and it is empowering.

Come join us in Albany. We have work to do, and you can help.

Want to join us in Albany for Equality & Justice Day? Click here for more information or to register. Sign up now – the deadline to register to be guaranteed transportation and a legislative visit is April 10 – just four days away!

Vermont Legislature Provides Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples

This morning, Vermont's legislature overruled Gov. Douglas' veto of the state's marriage equality bill, making Vermont the fourth state to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. The Pride Agenda just released the following statement by Executive Director Alan Van Capelle:

April 7, 2009—“We are thrilled that Vermont—another one of New York’s neighbors—has passed a marriage equality bill through the state legislature. Less than a week after Iowa’s Supreme Court recognized the need to recognize and protect same-sex couples and our families, more than two-thirds of Vermont’s legislature sent the same message by overriding Governor Jim Douglas’ veto.

Vermont was the first state to pass a law recognizing same-sex couples through civil unions and now becomes the first state to provide real marriage equality for same-sex couples through a vote in the state legislature. This is truly a victory for LGBT people in Vermont and across the country.

But I’m embarrassed for New York State.

We hope that our State Senate in New York will now look at three of the states that surround New York—Massachusetts, Connecticut and now Vermont—and realize that we are falling behind. Governor Paterson, Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand, every statewide official, the New York State Assembly, and a majority of New Yorkers already support passing a bill that would provide same-sex couples with the 1,324 rights and protections that come with a New York State marriage license.

Despite the prevailing wisdom that Albany is hopelessly dysfunctional, we have—time and time again over the years—proved that we can break through the gridlock and pass legislation providing equality for our community when most people thought it couldn’t be done. We are working daily with Democrats and Republicans in the State Senate and grassroots organizations across the state to make sure that we have the votes to pass a marriage bill this year. Patience is not always a virtue—our families cannot wait any longer.”

Morning Sweep

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas has vetoed the state’s same-sex marriage bill. The State Senate has already voted 23-5 to override the veto. The State House, which voted 96-52 in support of the bill, needs five more votes for a successful override.

Obama has chosen a second gay representative to join his faith-based council.

Iowa’s Senate Majority Leader has said he will not consider any proposals to begin the process to amend Iowa's constitution to overturn the same-sex marriage decision. "The politics of it are I'm not going to put discrimination in the Iowa Constitution," he said. "That's a horrible idea. The people who are pushing the amendment are saying equal protection under the law -- except. I think that's unacceptable."

Hawaii gay rights advocates are trying to find a compromise on the state’s stalled civil unions bill by proposing an amendment that would make it clearer that the unions are not the same as marriage.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Morning Sweep

The Syracuse man accused of killing trans woman Latiesha Green last November has been indicted on a hate crime.

The New York Times editorial board calls Iowa’s same-sex marriage ruling “a refreshing message of fairness and common sense from the nation’s heartland.”

The AP predicts Iowa’s marriage ruling will lead to a wave of gay activism.

The Times reports that New England “remains the nucleus of the same-sex marriage movement, with a campaign under way to extend marriage rights to gay men and lesbians in all six of the region’s states by 2012.”

Friday, April 3, 2009

Iowa Supreme Court strikes down ban on same-sex marriages

Great news from Iowa this morning, as the State Supreme Court UNANIMOUSLY struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriages. You can read the court decision here.

More on the Iowa decision from the Des Moines Register, The New York Times and, of course, bloggers, bloggers and more bloggers.

Here in New York City, Civil Rights Front is planning a rally at Union Square this evening. Here are the details (from organizer Heath Tucker):

"As many of you are already aware, we were victorious in Iowa today. In response, we are having a celebratory rally on the south side of Union Square at 6:30pm tonight. The overall tone of the evening will be a celebration, but we must make everyone who attends aware of the steps we must take in our OWN state to achieve such a victory."

What: Celebrate Victory in Iowa
Where: Union Square (south side)
When: 6:30-7:30pm

And speaking of steps that YOU can take to make marriage equality happen here in New York State, the best way that you can have an impact in New York is to come to Equality & Justice Day in Albany on April 28. Find out more here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Equality & Justice Day – “Go to Albany and let your voices be heard”

Below is the fourth post in our series of E&J stories. Check back soon for more – and don’t forget to register for E&J Day.

D’Angelo Johnson, GENDA activist, New York City:

I started going to Equality & Justice Day a few years ago. I was very interested in learning more about how to get GENDA passed because I and many others in New York are affected by this bill. I was growing very frustrated with the lack of equal treatment for transgender and gender non-conforming people in NYC. It was in Albany that I met so many other folks who were everyday people that decided to take matters into their own hands and fight for equal rights. The experience kept me coming back because I felt like it was possible to actually impact change.
My first year was a huge crash course in lobbying and I was tutored by the one and only Melissa Sklarz as well as Sebastian McGuire, both of whom were very encouraging and helpful. I quickly learned the basics and found myself walking the halls in Albany, seeking out my Assemblymember and Senator from my district. Although Assemblymember Scarborough and Senator Huntley were not available, I was able to talk with their representatives and get a better understanding of how to set up appointments to meet with them once I got back to the city. When I got back to my district, I was part of a meeting with the very conservative Assemblymember Scarborough in regards to marriage equality. The meeting went well and to our surprise, the Assemblyman voted in support of marriage equality. Each year after that I became more involved in the work and facilitated workshops as well as coached other folks on what to expect and how to make the most of Lobby Day. I strongly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go to Albany and let your voices be heard. There is a great sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with meeting lawmakers face to face and expressing the need for equality and justice for all. I am not saying change happens overnight or even at all sometimes, but I know that being involved facilitates more opportunity for change than standing on the sidelines.

Want to join us in Albany for Equality & Justice Day? Click here for more information or to register. Sign up now – the deadline to register to be guaranteed transportation and a legislative visit is April 10!

Morning Sweep

Syracuse University is considering a plan called "grossing up" that would essentially make up the difference in salary that its legally married gay and lesbian employees are forced to pay when they are taxed on their spousal benefits.

Love Makes A Family, the LGBT rights group formed to win family recognition legislation in Connecticut, has decided to close shop after 10 years and winning marriage equality. "We accomplished our core purpose," said Executive Director Anne Stanback about the decision.

Marc Ambinder suggests that the confirmation of John Berry as Director of the Office of Personnel Management would be the catalyst for President Obama to issue an executive order banning discrimination against all LGBT employees of the federal government.

Iowa's Supreme Court may hand down its long-awaited marriage ruling tomorrow morning.

Queerty produces an interesting graphic they call the"2009 Gay Marriage Horse Race" and strangely neglects to include New York--the state where the blog is based.

The Daily Beast interviews openly gay Congressman Barney Frank and discusses subjects ranging from Justice Scalia to former Senator Larry Craig.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Morning Sweep

The New York State Court of Appeals has decided that it will hear a case challenging New York's policy of recognizing marriages of same-sex couples that were legally performed out of state. The good news is that every single Appellate Court decision on this matter has been in favor of the current policy.

A recent Gallup poll found that Catholics are more gay friendly than non-Catholics.

Two mainline Protestant denominations--Lutherans and Presbyterians--are considering giving local congregations the freedom to marry same-sex couples.

The debate over several pieces of gay rights legislation--from ENDA to marriage equality--has stirred conversation in various Jewish communities, as JTA reports.

Sweden has become the seventh country in the world to pass a marriage equality bill.

In Singapore, when homosexuality is still illegal, an all-male interpretation of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" is causing quite a stir.