Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy calls on the Senate to pass the marriage bill

In an eloquent op-ed in this past Sunday's Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester's biggest paper), Mayor Robert Duffy articulates why he supports marriage equality and explains why the State Senate should act to pass the bill immediately.

The op-ed is an enlightened contrast to the backwards editorial that the paper released the Sunday before, which argued that civil unions are enough for same-sex couples. Apparently, the editorial board had a heated argument about the issue before deciding to write the piece that they ran. Unfortunately, they got it completely wrong.

Mayor Duffy, on the other hand, demonstrates why he is so popular among his constituents. He is a true leader, and recognizes the need to strike down injustice where it exists in our laws. His entire op-ed is below:

Gay New Yorkers deserve right to marry

May 24, 2009

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.

The state Assembly recently passed a bill that provides same-sex couples the same opportunity to enter into civil marriages as opposite-sex couples. The state Senate will now take up the measure, and I am urging its passage.

While I have no say in this vote, this is not the time to hide our opinions and our positions.

I was raised in a deeply religious family. In fact, my mother was actually a Catholic nun for a time. I am well aware of the Church's teachings. I hold my faith and the Bible dear. But I also cherish our Constitution. To me, this is not about my faith in God. It is about equal rights for all.
As police chief and now as mayor, I have spent my career upholding our Constitution to ensure all citizens are not denied their rights because of who they are.

In my mind, sexual preference is not a choice or one's decision. I believe it is inherently part of our being. The right to marry is a fundamental human right that is being denied to an entire class of people solely because of who they are. It's not fair, it's not right and it's not American.
This is not about religion. The legislation provides that no member of the clergy may be compelled to perform any marriage ceremony. I frequently meet with the faith community and the pastors I speak with know my heart on this matter. I wholeheartedly respect their beliefs and opinions and I ask that they respect mine as well.

Opponents argue that we must defend marriage. This law does exactly that. The breakdown of our families and the lack of committed relationships is a destructive force on society. Let's take the passion we have about the politics of the law and focus it on encouraging more marriage and civil unions for all our citizens.

The gay and lesbian community in our city and state are some of our most brilliant, entrepreneurial and successful citizens. Who are these people? They are our family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and taxpayers who represent every corner of our community.

Can New York state afford to lose these outstanding citizens? If I was being denied a basic civil right in our state, I would go to another place where I would be valued and welcomed.
This community is the home of two giants in the fight for social justice. Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony dedicated their lives to battle for people who were denied basic human rights based on their race and gender.

We look back on that time and wonder why the fight was so long and so hard for what seems an obvious fact — freedom, voting and equality are not limited to a few, but to all. Future generations will look back on this vote in the same manner. The right for two people to marry in a civil ceremony is fundamental and American.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pride Agenda launches second TV ad

Today, the Pride Agenda launched our second TV ad as part of our campaign across New York to show how real New York families are hurt when same-sex couples aren’t allowed to marry.

Featured in our second ad are Karen, Luke and Jessica Schuster of Rochester, NY. Karen has a gay son and three straight children, and she wants to know why her son Luke does not have the same rights as her daughter Jessica. In Karen's words, If Jessica meets someone and falls in love and wants to get married, she can. But if Luke meets someone and falls in love and wants to get married, he can't. It's not equal treatment. This painful situation is the reality for thousands of families across New York State. We need the New York State Senate to act now and pass the marriage equality bill so that same-sex couples will no longer be treated as second-class citizens.

For more information on the ad and our campaign to win marriage in New York State, click here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Morning Sweep

Megan McCain’s open letter to New York Republicans in the Daily News argues that all of NY will benefit from the stability that marriage for same-sex couples will provide. McCain ends by asking NY Republican Senators to support and vote for the bill.

The Sag Harbor Express interviews several local lesbian and gay couples who hope that the Senate will vote to provide them the protections of marriage equality that their families need.

In response to DC’s new law to recognize marriages of same-sex couples, a group of Republicans have introduced a new bill to define marriage between one man and one woman in the District.

The Obama administration is insisting that despite recent controversy, they are proactively working toward repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Morning Sweep

A Buffalo News columnist writes that he understands why some people get testy when it comes to comparing the struggle for gay rights to that of African Americans – but that despite the differences, the underlying message of the need to provide equality for a marginalized group remains the same.

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn lobbied for marriage equality in Albany on Tuesday.

New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage bill has hit a snag, as the House was two votes short of approving Gov. Lynch’s new religious exemptions yesterday. The bill now goes to committee to be considered further.

A gay veteran speaks out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The Wall Street Journal writes on the Massachusetts lawsuit challenging DOMA.

In light of D.C.’s decision to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, the AP writes on the shifting opinions in the black community there.

The ACLU is threatening to sue a San Diego County school that refused to let a student present a report on Harvey Milk until her classmates got their parents' permission to hear it due to its “sex education” nature. The student’s mother is outraged, saying “Harvey Milk was an elected official in this state and an important person in history. To say my daughter's presentation is sex education because Harvey Milk happened to be gay is completely wrong.”

Pam Spaulding blogs on The Dallas Principles, a document drafted by her and 23 other LGBT equality advocates "to see how we could seize this special moment in history, to think outside of the box about how we can accelerate achieving full civil rights" for LGBT people.

Pam’s House Blend also has an interesting video created to discuss the controversy surrounding the Gender Identity Disorder diagnosis and its inclusion in the DSM.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Morning Sweep

The New York Times writes about the devastating story of a lesbian who was denied the right to visit her dying partner in a Florida hospital. Lambda Legal is representing her in a lawsuit against the hospital.

Gay rights activists are mourning the death of Rodger McFarlane, who was a leader in the 1980s of New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the nation’s first organization to provide services for people with AIDS.

The Connecticut border town of Greenwich is proving to be a popular wedding destination for same-sex couples from out of state.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Morning Sweep

Yesterday’s Times Square rally for marriage equality brought out a huge crowd of New Yorkers and featured elected officials, LGBT activists and stars such as the cast of Broadway’s “Hair,” Cheyenne Jackson, David Hyde Pierce, Cynthia Nixon and Kristen Davis.

Joe.My.God has pictures.

The New York Times covers both the Times Square rally and the anti-marriage rally in front of the Gov’s office earlier in the day.

The Journal News editorializes poignantly that we know more about Miss California’s stance on marriage for same-sex couples than we do of New York’s State Senators – and it’s time for them to take a stand on the side of equality for their LGBT constituents.

The Democrat & Chronicle ran two excellent opinion pieces yesterday highlighting religious voices in support of marriage – one by Pride Agenda Board Director Rev. Jen Crow, and the other by Rev. Prince Singh, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester who also spoke at Equality & Justice Day this year.

The D&C also featured a story on marriage for same-sex couples that mentioned the Pride Agenda’s Spring Dinner this past Saturday in Rochester and quoted Dinner Co-Chairs Emily Jones and Matt Haag.

The AP has a great rundown of last week’s marriage debate in the New York Assembly.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch says he will only sign the state’s marriage bill if extra protections for religious groups and their employees are added.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele says Republicans should fight against same-sex marriage with the argument that it will hurt small businesses that will be required to provide additional benefits as a result. Perhaps he should check out the studies that have already shown this to be false – on average, employers’ costs only increase 1% to 2% as a result of providing benefits for same-sex couples.

And what about the revenue that marriage for same-sex couples brings to states -- like the $111 million so far in Massachusetts, Mr. Steele?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pride Agenda launches our first-ever TV ad

Yesterday, the Pride Agenda launched its first-ever TV ad campaign across New York to show how real New York families are hurt when same-sex couples aren’t allowed to marry. The powerful ad features Barb and Don Crawford from Cicero, New York. Barb and Don—like tens of thousands of parents across the state—know firsthand the pain of having a child who is denied access to the 1324 rights and protections of marriage. The Crawfords feel heartbroken that one of their daughters can get married to and protect the person that she loves, but the other can’t.

In just over 24 hours, we’ve already begun to receive unprecedented positive feedback and support demonstrating the amazing momentum of the movement and the comittment of LGBT advocates and allies across not just the state, but the nation.

Some feedback in the media includes:

Both the Albany Times-Union and the Syracuse Post-Standard – papers in two of the key areas where our ad is being shown – editorialized today on the need to pass marriage.

The ad has also been featured on LGBT and politics blogs here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Since the ad began to air, the Crawfords have also been featured in the local news, including Channel 9 in Syracuse.

For more information on the ad and our campaign to win marriage in New York State, click here. And stay tuned for more updates on marriage passing the Assembly and the efforts underway in the Senate!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Marriage rally this Sunday!

Join us at a rally in NYC this weekend to show your support for marriage equality! The cast of Broadway's "Hair" will be joined by special guests, including the Pride Agenda's Executive Director Alan Van Capelle. Don't miss this opportunity to come together with hundreds of marriage supporters -- make your voice heard!

DATE: Sunday, May 17, 2009

TIME: 5-7 PM

WHERE: 45th St. & 6th Ave.

We'll see you there!

Marriage passes the New York Assembly

Last night, the marriage bill (A.7732/O'Donnell) passed the Assembly 89-52. This is the second time that the Assembly has voted on and passed marriage equality legislation. Today’s vote saw an increase in four supporters over 2007, including three additional Democrat votes and one additional Republican vote, for a total of 84 Democrats and five Republicans voting to support marriage equality for same-sex couples. Five Assemblymembers who voted “no” in 2007 voted “yes” last night.

The vote tally is below. Italics denote Republicans; bold denotes Assemblymembers who voted “no” in 2007 and “yes” this year; "ABS" denotes absent/no vote. To find out who your Assemblymember is, click here.

Abbate, Jr.  NO
Alessi Y
Alfano NO
Amedore NO
Arroyo Y
Aubry Y
Bacalle NO
Ball NO
Barclay NO
Barra NO
Barron NO
Benedetto Y
Benjamin NO
Bing Y
Boyland, Jr. Y
Boyle NO
Bradley Y
Brennan Y
Brodsky Y
Brook-Krasny Y
Burling NO
Butler NO
Cahill Y
Calhoun NO
Camara ABS
Canestrari Y
Carrozza Y
Castro NO
Christensen NO
Clark NO
Colton NO
Conte NO
Cook Y
Corwin NO
Crouch NO
Cusick Y
Cymbrowitz NO
DelMonte NO
DenDekker Y
Destito Y
Dinowitz Y
Duprey Y
Eddington Y
Englebright Y
Errigo NO
Espaillat Y
Farrell, Jr. Y
Fields Y
Finch NO
Fitzpatrick NO
Gabryszak NO
Galef Y
Gantt ABS
Gianari Y
Giglio NO
Glick Y
Gordon Y
Gottfried Y
Gunther Y
Hawley NO
Hayes NO
Heastie ABS
Hevesi Y
Hikind NO
Hooper NO
Hoyt Y
Hyer-Spencer Y
Jacobs Y
Jaffee Y
Jeffries Y
John Y
Jordan NO
Kavanagh Y
Kellner Y
Kolb NO
Koon Y
Lancman Y
Latimer Y
Lavine Y
Lentol Y
Lifton Y
Lopez, P NO
Lopez, V Y
Lupardo Y
Magee NO
Magnarelli Y
Maisel Y
Markey ABS
Mayersohn Y
McDonough NO
McEneny Y
McKevitt NO
Meng ABS
Miller Y
Millman Y
Molinaro ABS
Morelle Y
Nolan Y
Oaks NO
O'Donnell Y
O'Mara NO
Ortiz Y
Parment Y
Paulin Y
Peoples ABS
Peralta Y
Perry NO
Pheffer Y
Powell Y
Pretlow Y
Quinn NO
Rabbitt NO
Raia NO
Ramos Y
Reilich NO
Reilly Y
Rivera, J Y
Rivera, N Y
Rivera, P Y
Robinson NO
Rosenthal Y
Russell Y
Saladino NO
Sayward Y
Scarborough Y
Schimel Y
Schimminger NO
Schroeder Y
Scozzafava Y
Seminerio NO
Silver Y
Skartados Y
Spano Y
Stirpe Y
Sweeney Y
Tedisco NO
Thiele Y
Titone Y
Titus Y
Tobacco NO
Towns Y
Townsend NO
Walker NO
Weinstein Y
Weisenberg Y
Weprin Y
Wright Y
Zebrowski Y

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Morning Sweep

The NYS Assembly will vote on the marriage equality bill today.

A New York Times columnist writes that although some people think Obama is moving slow on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and other LGBT issues, recent advances and shifting public opinion could drive him to take more action in the near future.

A Maine transgender woman writes in the New York Times on the complexities of marriage for trans people.

The Times also writes on NYS Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell’s efforts to secure increased support for marriage in his chamber.

The Boston Globe writes on the New England states’ characteristics that make them more friendly to marriage for same-sex couples.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Morning Sweep

The New York Times covers the crucial work being done by New York LGBT advocates and allies across the state who have met with their Senators in-district to talk about the importance of marriage equality.

The New York Times’ City Room blog has a run-down of last Thursday’s conference of New York legal experts in support of marriage equality.

The Obama administration has indicated that it is having “preliminary discussions” about repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – but has made no promises on a timeline for action.

In the Washington Post, at at-large member of the D.C. Council praises its decision to extend recognition to legally married same-sex couples, while an anti-gay rally organizer writes that the decision “marked a new low in irresponsible leadership.”

Five years after marriage for same-sex couples first became legal in Massachusetts, the AP reflects on how it has affected lesbian and gay couples in the state.

The Times also covers some of the basics of health insurance for gay couples.

In honor of Mother’s Day this past weekend, a Huffington Post blogger wrote on the powerful experiences of children raised by gay parents.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Morning Sweep

The Register-Star (Columbia & Dutchess County) features two stories on Equality & Justice Day, the first focusing on participants’ stories surrounding marriage and the second on stories on GENDA and Dignity for All Students.

Edge News has Sen. Duane and NYC Council Speaker Quinn’s reactions to Maine winning marriage.

Opponents who are already challenging Maine marriage equality must collect 55,087 signatures by mid-Sept. in order to put the issue on the Nov. ballot. If they succeed, the marriage law will be stayed until after the voters weigh in.

The New York Times editorial board urges New Hampshire’s Gov. John Lynch – as well as officials in other states with same-sex marriage bills on the table – to stand on the side of fairness and make marriage equality the law.

The Times’ ed board also encourages Obama to choose a gay Supreme Court Justice to replace Souter.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that she hopes Congress won’t interfere with D.C.’s passage of a marriage recognition law.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Morning Sweep

Yesterday, Maine became the fifth state with legal marriage for same-sex couples after Gov. John Baldacci signed the bill. Baldacci, who hadn't indicated whether he would veto or sign, said “In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.” Read the Pride Agenda’s statement on Maine winning marriage here.

Maine marriage may face a so-called “people’s veto” – a voter referendum in the state. The Bangor Daily News editorializes against a referendum with this simple and eloquent argument: “Many lawmakers believe the issue should be decided by the voters…This is a popular argument, but it overlooks the basis of a representative democracy. The fight for minority rights always faces opposition, which is why we rely on elected officials. Giving a different — and small — group something the majority already has should not always face a veto from the “haves.”

Meanwhile, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch is deciding whether to veto or sign the state’s marriage bill. “''I'm going to talk to legislators and I'm going to talk to the people of New Hampshire and ultimately make the best decision I can for the people of New Hampshire,'' he said. If Lynch vetoes the bill, it is unlikely that the legislature would have enough votes to override it.

The New York Times analyzes what Obama has done for LGBT rights so far, and what some advocates in the community are asking of him, including potentially nominating an out candidate for Justice Souter’s Supreme Court seat.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Morning Sweep

New York Republican Assemblymember Fred Thiele, who previously voted against the marriage bill, has announced his support for it, saying: “In 2007, I…let my judgment on this issue be clouded by the political implications of this vote. There is no place for politics when it comes to civil rights. As I reflected on this issue, there simply was no justification for a ‘no’ vote [this year]. I could not look into the eyes of friends and colleagues I have known for decades and tell them they were not entitled to the same pursuit of happiness as me because of their sexual orientation.”

A new University of Albany poll of Latinos in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island found that half support same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Marriage bills are advancing in New Hampshire and Maine:

In NH, the House will take a final vote today on the revised bill, which is expected to pass. Gov. John Lynch has not made it clear whether he will veto the bill or sign it.

In Maine, the House voted 89-58 to pass the marriage bill, and it must now be reconciled with the Senate version before going to Gov. John Baldacci, who has also not made it clear whether he will veto or sign.

The New York Times writes on both states’ bills and the possibility of marriage equality throughout New England.

The New York Times
editorializes in favor of passing the Matthew Shepard Act.

Washington D.C.’s Council has given final approval to its bill to fully recognize same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. The bill is now up for U.S. Congressional review, where Congress Republicans plan to fight it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Morning Sweep

Clergy in support of LGBT rights are gathering in DC this week to lobby for the Matthew Shepard Act.

Maine’s House will vote on the State’s marriage equality bill today, but even if it passes, it still faces obstacles including a likely “people’s veto” – a voter referendum that could overturn it.

The New York Times has an interesting series of commentary from a variety of sources for and against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

Morning Sweep

The Buffalo News editorializes that the time has come for marriage equality in New York: “Equality is a funny thing. It can be—and has been—obstructed for long periods, but once it gathers momentum, it is unstoppable. That has been the case with gender and race equality, though both remain works in progress, and it is now true of sexual orientation.”

Suffolk County legislator John Cooper legally married his partner in CT last week, saying that although he would have liked to legally marry in New York, the formal recognition was important to his 29-year-long relationship.

A national equality rally drew hundreds of LGBT advocates in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Much has been written on N.C. Rep. Virginia Foxx's comments about Matthew Shepard’s murder being a "hoax" during recent debate over the federal hate crimes act, and though Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker is right that Foxx’s comments were “not one of the GOP's brighter moments” she seriously misses the point when she asks "Does our revulsion at hate-motivated crimes justify creating special laws only for certain people?"’s online TV channel has a great video on same-sex parenting featuring former Pride Agenda Long Island Program Organizer Jeff Friedman, husband Andrew Zwerin and son Joshua.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Morning Sweep

Blogger AndrĂ©s Duque’s attended Equality & Justice Day on Tuesday, and his post on Blabbeando does a great job capturing the energy of the day and its importance to the LGBT community and its allies.

Gay City News has an interview with Gov. Paterson expanding on some of his recent statements surrounding the marriage bill.

Maine’s Senate has passed the state’s marriage equality bill, which will now go to the House for a vote.

The New York Times writes on advocacy groups’ efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Bernard Whitman, president and CEO of a public opinion polling firm, writes in Forbes that marriage for same-sex couples in all 50 states is inevitable.

Huffington Post writes on clergy leading the way for LGBT equality.