Friday, October 30, 2009

Fall Dinner in the News

Since last week, the Fall Dinner has generated much important media coverage on the fight for marriage equality in New York State. It has also helped draw attention to other LGBT issues. And last but not least, it’s led to some fun fashion and celebrity news as well! Here’s a roundup of some significant stories:

Joe.My.God, Gay City News and Newsday have great summaries of the evening's events, and The Daily Politics’ Liz Benjamin writes extensively on Executive Director Alan Van Capelle's speech, U.S. Senator Schumer's keynote, and Gov. Paterson's statements.

Major news outlets and blogs in New York and across the country wrote on Paterson’s statements at the Dinner and after that he will put marriage at the top of the agenda for the Senate’s upcoming special session, including: Gannett, the AP, NY1, ABC News, The Advocate, WSYR Syracuse, Politics on the Hudson, and Towleroad.

Politico wrote on Schumer’s comments about politicians changing their mind of marriage.

And just for fun:

Page Six highlighted Margaret Cho’s comedy at the Dinner.

Comedy Central’s blog summary of Schumer’s comments at the Dinner made us laugh.

We agree: the Hathaway family is “genetically blessed,” and Anne certainly “lights up the room” with her lovely smile.

Morning Sweep

Obama is expected to announce an end to the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban during a signing ceremony for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act scheduled for today.

David Mixner shares his experience at the signing ceremony for the hate crimes bill.

Argentina may become the first Latin American country to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Morning Sweep

Yesterday's signing of the the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act enacts one of many campaign promises the Obama administration has made to the LGBT community.

Moonhawk Riverstone, a former Pride Agenda Board Director, writes a letter to the editor in the Albany Times Union on the lack of attention paid to the transgender component of the hate crimes bill, which will protect the entire LGBT community.

Many of those testifying against marriage for same-sex couples in D.C. focused on claims that lesbians and gays "choose their lifestyle."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Morning Sweep

Some community leaders in Queens are encouraged by the recent passage of the hate crimes bill.

The New York Times
highlights the importance of the fight for marriage in Maine. If the referendum doesn't pass and marriage is upheld, it will mark the first victory at the ballot box on this issue - 30 states have voted to ban marriage for same-sex couples, but none have yet voted to uphold it.

Maine Gov. John Baldacci is urging voters to cast their ballot against the referendum.

A growing number of LGBT asylum seekers are arguing before U.S. immigration courts that anti-LGBT violence and threats in their home countries make it too dangerous for them to return.

An interesting visual analysis of public polling data on marriage equality and other LGBT issues suggests in many states, "legal and policy responses (whether from the legislative or judicial branch) lag behind much more liberal popular opinion."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scenes from the 2009 Fall Dinner

Last Thursday was our 18th annual Fall Dinner, the Pride Agenda’s biggest fundraising event of the year. With more than 1200 supporters in attendance, we had a great mix of donors, activists, elected officials and celebrities.

The night kicked off with our hilarious emcee, Margaret Cho, who kept us laughing with her colorful sense of humor!

We then heard from Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle, who reminded us that in regards to the marriage bill:

“…the time for making cases is past. The time for petty partisan finger pointing is past. The time for lame excuses, for botched maneuvers and simple, plain old foot dragging is past. The time to get this bill to the floor of the New York state Senate is now. The time for the state Senate to acknowledge our existence is now the time for us to hear our lives - our lives! - debated on the floor of the New York state Senate is now."

We had a great musical performance from actor, singer and activist Alan Cumming, with Lance Horne leading the band.

Our keynote speaker was U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who spoke about his experiences fighting for equal rights for LGBT people on the federal level. He praised the Senate for passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act earlier that day, and pledged to continue to work on reform for our community, including repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Part one of his speech is below:

(Click here for Part 2).

We also welcomed special speaker Governor Paterson, who pledged to put the marriage bill on the Senate’s agenda as soon as it comes back for its extraordinary session.

Part one of his speech is below:

(Click here for Part 2).

Finally, we honored the Hathaway family – actress Anne, her parents Gerald & Kate, and brothers Thomas and Michael, as well as Michael’s husband Joshua Lawson.

As the recipients of our 2009 Douglas W. Jones Leadership Award, the Hathaways are an inspiring example of the important role that families play in our movement.

Thanks again to everyone who helped make the Fall Dinner a success!

(Photos courtesy of Doug Meszler and Steve DiMaio).

Morning Sweep

Sorry for our absence...we've been recovering from the 2009 Fall Dinner! We'll recap the event in an upcoming post. Now, on to the news:

Gov. Paterson has stated that he wants to bring the NY Senate back for a special session on November 10, and he has promised to put marriage on the agenda for this session.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed the U.S. Senate on Thursday and is set to be signed into law by President Obama tomorrow. Read the Pride Agenda's statement on the bill passing here.

A panel of justices in New York County's Supreme Court ruled last week that a transgender person seeking judicial permission for a name change should not be required to furnish medical documentation supporting the change.

At a town hall meeting at the LGBT Community Center in NYC on Sunday, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke on many issues important to the community, including same-sex marriage, DADT, ENDA, immigration reform and gay persecution in Iraq.

The New York Times
writes more on the U.S. district court's refusal to grant a request by backers of the Prop. 8 campaign to dismiss the federal lawsuit against the ban.

Supporters of marriage for same-sex couples in Maine have raised more money than their opponents, but polls are still predicting close results on the Nov. 3 referendum.

More than 250 people will testify for and against marriage equality in D.C. Council hearings.

The federal Housing and Urban Development Department has announced that it is developing regulations to ensure that LGBT people aren't denied access to federally subsidized housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The HUD will also commission a first-ever nationwide study to determine the extent of anti-LGBT discrimination in housing sales and rental programs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Morning Sweep

The Buffalo Common Council held a public hearing yesterday to discuss a proposal to create a citywide domestic partnership registry.

NY Rep. Jerry Nadler and VT Sen. Patrick Leahy urge Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their non-citizen same-sex partners for permanent residence in the U.S. An estimated 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples would be affected by this law.

A new bill introduced by CA Rep. Pete Stark called the Every Child Deserves a Family Act would seek to prevent bias in adoption and foster care by restricting federal funds for states that discriminate against LGBT applicants.

The Vatican is taking steps to make it easier for Anglicans who are uneasy with their church's acceptance of female priests and openly gay bishops to join the Roman Catholic Church.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No More Waiting - Pride Agenda launches our first-ever click-to-call campaign

This week the Pride Agenda launched our first-ever click-to-call campaign to connect LGBT New Yorkers and their allies directly to their Senators' offices with just a few clicks of the mouse. The time is now to reach out to Senators and let them know that our community won't stand for inaction on the marriage bill any longer--we demand a vote on the vital protections of marriage that our families need and deserve. Click the graphic below and you'll be prompted to enter your information so you can be matched with your Senate district. The service will then call the phone number that you enter and patch you directly through to your Senator's office so that you can tell them you expect them to vote on marriage equality. It's that simple!

Your phone call will only take a few minutes of your time, and calling your Senator is one of the most important things you can do to help win marriage equality before the end of this year. Even if you have called your Senator before, please take the time to do it again now. Keep up the pressure and let Senators know that New Yorkers won't wait any longer for equality!

Morning Sweep

The Queens Chronicle editorializes against recent hate crimes in Queens, including those motivated by anti-LGBT bias, and asks individual residents to make a difference: "The only way to live in a borough of 2.3 million people of most every race, ethnicity, religion and sexual preference is to go out of your way to be tolerant of others. Any steps that people can take to forestall government harassment, hate crimes and gang violence are welcome. Do your part to make Queens the best place it can possibly be."

This past weekend's rally in Queens against hate crimes brought much-needed attention to the issue.

The Watertown Daily Times writes on Dede Scozzafava, current NY Assemblywoman and candidate in the 23rd U.S. Congressional District race. Scozzafava has voted twice in the Assembly in support of marriage equality.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has temporarily blocked Wash. state officials from releasing the names of people who signed petitions in support of Referendum 71, which would strike down the state's new domestic partnership law.

The D.C. Council on Monday will hear the stories of nearly 100 people during a hearing on marriage for same-sex couples, an issue that they are anticipated to pass soon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pride in My Workplace and Dewey & LeBoeuf Host “Marriage Equality: What Employers, Employees and Insurers Need to Know”

Last Thursday evening, Pride in My Workplace and Dewey & LeBoeuf hosted a panel on marriage equality that drew 80 participants from dozens of law firms; financial, consulting and insurance companies; and media, pharmaceutical and energy firms. The Pride Agenda’s Ross Levi and Lambda Legal’s Thomas Ude gave an overview of marriage law and marriage recognition in New York and across the country. Pride Agenda Board Member and Pride in My Workplace Co-Chair Marla Hassner outlined the differences between marriage, civil unions and domestic partnership laws and their impact on employee relations.

First Deputy Superintendant Kermitt Brooks, from the NY Department of Insurance, outlined the effect of New York State’s marriage recognition policy on different sectors of the insurance industry. Dewey & LeBoeuf’s partner Mitchel Pahl articulated how federal ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) protections of employees and their families are turned into the opposite by the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages. He also outlined the disparate federal tax burden faced by same-sex couples whose employers provide same-sex spouse or domestic partner health benefits. This disparity is due to the lack of federal government recognition for any of the legal categories that currently apply to these families.

For more information on the activities of Pride in My Workplace, contact the program's coordinator, Wazina Zondon at (212) 627-0305 or

Pride Agenda Board Member & Pride In My Workplace Co-Chair Marla Hassner and Pride Agenda's Director of Public Policy & Education Ross Levi

First Deputy Superintendant Kermitt Brooks from the NY Department of Insurance and Dewey & LeBoeuf partner Mitchel Pahl

Powerful editorial for marriage in Albany Times Union

Today the Times Union in Albany called on the State Senate to stop delaying and vote on marriage immediately. The powerful editorial is below.

Time to take the plunge

It is time for Democrats to show that they were deserving of the trust placed in them last year when voters gave them control of the chamber. They must recognize that with power comes not only privilege, but the responsibility to use it. That means, among many other things, acting on one of their party's clearest planks and following through on an implicit promise to pass a gay marriage bill. Or, at the very least, to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Instead, what we see is "inactivity," the word that repeatedly came up last week as the state's top judges heard two cases over whether state and local governments could recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

That inaction has left it to politicians, government agencies, gay marriage opponents and gay and lesbian couples to fight this battle on the fringes. In the two cases before the court, the judges are deciding whether Westchester County and the state Department of Civil Service rightly or wrongly recognized same-sex marriages from neighboring states and Canada in providing couples with health benefits.

On one side is the Alliance Defense Fund, a self-proclaimed defender of religious liberty and what this group from Arizona declares to be the interests of New York taxpayers.

On the other is what New Yorkers are really about: equality and tolerance, and the real meaning of religious liberty. Last we read, it was the right to live in a nation where "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Implicit in that is not having religious views concerning marriage imposed on citizens by those like the Alliance Defense Fund.

As for the interests of New York taxpayers, the lawmakers who were elected to represent their interests could save some small measure of public funds by not leaving it to other governments and the courts to be their proxy on this issue.

The Democrat-led Assembly earlier this year passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. Democratic Gov. David Paterson is ready to sign it. Only Senate Democrats, insistent on trying to first finesse this behind the scenes rather that put this bill on the floor and make every lawmaker stand up and be counted, are holding it up.

Enough. Senate Democrats should put this bill on the agenda when the Legislature next returns to Albany and let it win or lose in a fair, open fight.

It is time to bring clarity to this issue and stop leaving it to the courts to have to express the will of New Yorkers every time some right-wing group tries to challenge this state's progressive traditions.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Morning Sweep

NY State Senator Jeffrey Klein released a report Thursday showing that some Yorkers' insurance companies are limiting their access to HIV/AIDS medication. Klein's office monitored the 12 most widely used HMOs in the state and found they limit the number of allowable doses and block coverage of so-called single source drugs -- those which are patented, brand name medications with no generic equivalent. "This should be as simple as a doctor telling a patient what they need to get better and a patient being able to get it from their health insurance company, period. When New Yorkers are not served well by their HMOs, everyone suffers," said Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.

NY Congressman Jerrold Nadler, primary sponsor of legislation to repeal DOMA, editorializes on David Mixner's blog on the need to repeal the anti-gay legislation.

NYC mayoral candidate Bill Thompson has clarified his answer to a question about gay rights at this week's debate.

A federal appeals court on yesterday reversed a previous decision to block release of petitions signed in support of repealing Wash. state's expanded domestic partnership law.

The Advocate examines the ban on gay men donating blood.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Morning Sweep

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker yesterday refused to grant a request by backers of the Prop. 8 campaign to dismiss the federal lawsuit against the ban. Judge Walker had many challenging questions for the lawyer for the Prop. 8 backers about how allowing gay couples to wed threatens marriage for straight couples. His response: "My answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know.’’

A new poll shows a slight lead for supporters of same-sex marriage in Maine's Nov. 3 referendum, with 51.8% those surveyed saying they plan to vote to uphold the law legalizing it and 42.9% percent planning to vote for repeal.

The assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has said that pending legislation allowing him to do so, he will take a more active role in fighting discrimination against the LGBT community.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments yesterday on whether signatures in support of repealing Washington state's expanded domestic partnership law should be made public.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Morning Sweep

A second man has been arrested in connection with last week's brutal attack that left an openly gay Queens man hospitalized.

New York's Court of Appeals heard arguments yesterday in two cases that could have a profound impact on how New York defines same-sex marriage. The Alliance Defense Fund suits contend that Westchester and the Civil Service Department have no right to extend benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in out-of-state jurisdictions.

In last night's mayoral debate between Mike Bloomberg and Bill Thompson, the "lightning round" included the question "Has President Obama done enough for gay rights?" Bloomberg said no. Thompson said “He’s been there nine months.” Then when pressed for a "yes or no" response, said yes.

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn spoke at the Equality March rally over the weekend, urging opponents of same-sex marriage to ""look me in the eye and tell me I am less of a person that you are; look me in the eye and tell me my family is worth less than yours; look me in the eye and tell me I am not an American."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Morning Sweep

An openly gay Queens man was assaulted by two men on Friday in an anti-gay attack. A 26-year-old man was arrested Sunday in connection with the crime and charged with assault and aggravated assault as a hate crime, and a second man is being sought in connection with the crime.

The New York Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments today in the Alliance Defense Fund's suit against New York extending benefits to same-sex couples legally married in jurisdictions outside the state.

At last week's panel on transgender hate crimes in Brooklyn, remarks by family members of Syracuse transgender woman Lateisha Green, who was killed nearly a year ago, were particularly poignant.

Authorities estimate this weekend's Equality March in D.C. was attended by "tens of thousands."
The New York Times writes on the national vs. state-by-state strategies of LGBT activists illuminated by the Equality March.

President Obama said on Saturday at the HRC's fundraiser that he will end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but some LGBT advocates and members of the media have expressed disappointment at his continued failure to offer a timetable for the law's repeal. Others urge patience.

California Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed the bill establishing Harvey Milk's birthday as a state holiday. He has also signed a bill that calls on the state to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally married in other states during the brief time that same-sex marriages were legal in California, as well as legislation to expand services for LGBT survivors of domestic violence.

The chief justice of the California Supreme Court draws attention to the state's "dysfunctional" referendum process to alter laws.

Maine voters have a huge decision coming up in November. Their state will be the first state to decide whether to repeal or uphold a law passed by their Legislature and signed by their governor that extends marriage equality to gay couples.

A new national poll shows rising support for civil unions, but the same numbers on marriage as last year.

The Washington Post profiles several same-sex couples who are waiting to wed until marriage becomes legal in their home jurisdiction of D.C.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Morning Sweep

The House voted yesterday to expand the federal definition of violent hate crimes to include those committed based on a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The defense authorization conference report in which the measure resides now moves to the Senate, where it appears to have solid support.

GLAAD's blog has a great recap of Wednesday's panel on transgender hate crimes in Brooklyn, which was sponsored and moderated by the Pride Agenda.

Lesbians make up a disproportionate number of the discharges under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but the Pentagon won't comment on why.

Although AIDS deaths in the U.S. are the lowest in 20 years, the New York Times reminds us that African Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted, and the biggest single group dying remains gay men.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Morning Sweep

NYC has launched a new initiative aimed at preventing LGBT homelessness. The New York City Commission for LGBTQ Runaway and Homeless Youth will aim to address the problems of teens before they resort to running away, and will providing housing, emotional support and family reuniting services for currently homeless youth.

President Obama plans to nominate an openly gay lawyer as the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. If confirmed by the Senate, David Huebner would become the third openly gay ambassador in U.S. history and the first pick by this administration.

The Supreme Court declined to hear two LGBT-related cases on Monday.

Same-sex couples can now apply for marriage licenses in New Hampshire – though the marriages can't be performed until Jan. 1, 2010, when the state's marriage equality law takes effect.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Morning Sweep

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand from New York wrote a second op-ed for the Huffington Post in support of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." She writes: "It is time to repeal this outdated and immoral policy once and for all and end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly and honestly in our armed forces."

As expected, marriage equality legislation was introduced yesterday in Washington, D.C. Expected to pass the Council, the legislation will then go to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty to be signed, and then to Congress, which has 30 days to enact a joint resolution of disapproval to block the bill, which President Obama would then have to sign.

In other words? The AP reports the bill "seems almost unstoppable."

It's volunteer vacation week for the No on 1 campaign in Maine, and activists nationwide who are against the ballot proposal to overturn the state's new same-sex marriage law are answering the call to pack up and help out.

Meanwhile, the Yes on 1 campaign continues to spread the typical deceptive rhetoric with it's new ad about same-sex marriage being taught in schools.

More than 17,000 marriages of same-sex couples have been performed so far in Connecticut since they became legal there last Nov. 12. 75% of those married have been out-of-state couples, including many New Yorkers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Morning Sweep

Happy LGBT History Month!

ABC News in Rochester had great coverage of this past weekend's demonstration in support of marriage equality.

Following up on comments that he made two weeks ago regarding the prospects for marriage in NYS, Mayor Bloomberg recently told supporters “I actually think in my heart of hearts that this is going to get done.”

Can't put a price on the value of marriage for same-sex couples? Sure you can -- it's somewhere between about $41-$468k.

A marriage equality bill is slated to be introduced today in Washington, D.C., but although it's expected to pass the Council, it will then go to Congress for review before it becomes law--which could get messy.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants the White House to take action on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He writes "At a time when we are fighting two wars, I do not believe we can afford to discharge any qualified individual who is willing to serve our country."

National Security Adviser James Jones said President Obama will focus on how to overturn DADT "at the right time," adding, "I don’t think it’s going to be — it’s not years, but I think it will be teed up appropriately."

The New York Times editorializes in favor of DADT's repeal.

President Obama will address the LGBT community this weekend, which will coincide with the National Equality March taking place in D.C.

A Texas judge has cleared the way for two Dallas men to get a divorce, ruling that Texas' ban on marriage equality violates the federal constitutional guarantee to equal protection under the law.

New York magazine has an in-depth on the frightening lives of gay men in Iraq, where Human Rights Watch is trying to find them before they are targeted, tortured and killed in order to shepherd them to safety.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gender Identity & Expression: From Policy to Practice

The Pride Agenda's Pride in My Workplace Coordinator Wazina Zondon reports back from our most recent event in the Business Leaders for Equality series:

The Pride in My Workplace program and JPMorgan Chase & Co. hosted the third panel in the 2009 Business Leaders for LGBT Equality Series on Tuesday evening, Gender Identity & Expression: From Policy to Practice, moderated by Marla Hassner, Pride in My Workplace Committee Co-chair and Pride Agenda Foundation Board Member.

JPMorgan Chase & Co’s Director of Corporate Diversity, Amita Mehta, discussed the company’s nine-year journey to full implementation of inclusive policies. One major motivator was a 2003 employee survey that asked LGBT staff to self-identify, in which 11% of the LGBT staff said they were transgender. The company’s global commitment to transgender employees, including full medical benefits, has been successful because of support from senior management support and advocacy from JPMorgan Chase's LGBT affinity group, Pride Network.

Debra Oppenheimer, a Senior Network Specialist at a Rochester-based company spoke about the difficulties she experienced while transitioning in the workplace and simultaneously educating and lobbying her Texas-based firm to create inclusive policies and transition guidelines.

Long Island transgender activist and Software Engineer, Eileen Thomas, who transitioned in the workplace in 2005, overcame the challenge this summer of interviewing for a new job as her female self, even though much of her prior work record was under a different name. Although successfully working at a new company, Eileen, like many other transgender professionals, had to navigate whether and how she should disclose personal information about her past, including her transition. Animated conversations with attendees continued over cocktails after the Q&A.

Several municipalities in New York State, including New York City and Rochester, as well as Suffolk County, have extended their human rights law to protect gender identity and expression in the workplace. But there is no state-wide law to protect all transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) would extend protections in employment, public accommodation, housing, and credit and is currently pending in the State Senate.

Learn more about companies who have voluntarily adopted protections for transgender employees in our 2009 publication: Transgender Issues in the Workplace: Lessons from Across New York State.

For more information and support on creating a fully inclusive workplace, please contact Pride in My Workplace Coordinator, Wazina Zondon at (212) 627-0305 or

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Morning Sweep

The Maine ethics commission staff says no investigation is warranted into fundraising by groups supporting the campaign to repeal Maine's gay marriage law. Marriage supporters had complained that the Stand for Marriage campaign is not reporting the names of many donors as the law requires.

UPDATE: But the Maine Governmental Ethics & Election Practices committee has just voted to conduct an investigation anyway.

The number of LGBT characters on TV this season are up slightly.