Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Harry Bronson & Phillip LaTessa would add more LGBT leadership to the Legislature

Yesterday, we told you about Janet Duprey and Brian Foley, marriage and GENDA supporters in the Legislature whose pro-LGBT positions are being used against them. Today, we want to highlight two of our endorsements that would add more LGBT leadership to the New York Assembly.

Although it is by no means the sole criteria that the Pride Agenda bases our endorsements on, we are always pleased to support LGBT candidates because no one can move hearts and minds the way a legislator telling their own story can. Both Phillip LaTessa and Harry Bronson are gay candidates who are seeking open seats in the New York Assembly.

In Syracuse’s Assembly District 119 we have endorsed Phillip LaTessa
, current Syracuse City Auditor. He would represent the district of former Assemblywoman Joan Christensen, who voted against marriage equality. LaTessa would be yet another important supporter in the Assembly’s pro-LGBT majority.

In Rochester’s Assembly District 131, we have endorsed Harry Bronson, current Minority Leader of the Monroe County Legislature. He would represent the district of former Assemblywoman and LGBT rights champion Susan John. Bronson would help us make sure that this district continues to be represented by a strong, pro-LGBT leader.

As the first LGBT state legislators from outside of New York City, these candidates will help bring more diverse representation to Albany and will continue the Assembly’s record of leadership on issues important to the LGBT community. Please donate now to the Pride Agenda PAC to help Philip LaTessa and Harry Bronson in their bids to win these Assembly seats, and to allow us to support other candidates across the state who are also doing the right thing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Our allies in the Legislature need your help

Last week, we told you about several candidates who would replace New York Senators who stand in the way of winning LGBT equality and justice. Today, we want to tell you about two of our allies in the Legislature who have stood by our side and who now need our help.

Both Senator Brian Foley, a Democrat, and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, a Republican, have voted “yes” on the marriage bill. These votes in support of protections for LGBT New Yorkers and our families are now being used against these candidates. Our community must not allow attacks based on pro-LGBT votes to hurt fair-minded candidates in the 2010 elections.

In Brookhaven’s Senate District 3 we have endorsed Brian Foley, who voted “yes” on marriage despite some negative feedback from more conservative constituents in his district. Foley was willing to stand up and do the right thing for our community, and now our community needs to stand behind him against any anti-LGBT attacks.

In Plattsburgh and the North Country’s Assembly District 114 we have endorsed Janet Duprey, a Republican who changed her vote on marriage from “no” in 2007 to “yes” in 2009. Very soon after her original “no” vote, Duprey announced publicly that she regretted her decision and that she would change her vote the next time the bill came to the floor. She kept her word in 2009. Duprey also supports the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and has voted for it each time it has come before the Assembly. Now we must stand behind her and against those who don’t support our community.

It is crucial that we defend our friends in the Legislature. Please donate now to the Pride Agenda PAC to keep Brian Foley and Janet Duprey in these crucial seats, and to allow us to support other candidates across the state who are also doing the right thing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Sweep

Good afternoon, I’m just finishing my first week at the Pride Agenda and wanted to introduce myself. My name is George Simpson and I’m the new communications coordinator here. Now on with the news…

Argentina won the week by winning marriage, making it the first Latin American nation to do so thus far. Mexico City responded by offering the first Argentine same-sex newlyweds a free honeymoon.

Here in New York, Gay City News profiles Pride Agenda’s Ross Levi and explores the work ahead for LGBT rights in this state.

Ross Levi’s letter-to-the-editor was published by the New York Times in response to their article mischaracterizing Andrew Cuomo’s commitment to equality.

Politics blog The Albany Project covered Pride Agenda endorsee Regina Calcaterra’s fundraising successes in her challenge to defeat Ken LaValle in Eastern Long Island, who voted against marriage and GENDA.

And in Staten Island, the NYPD and the Department of Justice held a community forum Thursday addressing the recent bias attacks against a married same-sex couple and five immigrants.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Calcaterra, Avella and Barrett would oust Senators opposed to LGBT equality and justice

Yesterday, we told you about our endorsement of Charlie Ramos in the 32nd Senate District, who would unseat one of New York’s most anti-LGBT state Senators. Today, we want to highlight three more of our endorsements that will help us remove Senators who voted “no” on our issues and replace them with new legislators who are strong supporters of LGBT equality and justice.

One of the reasons that having the marriage vote in December 2009 was so important was that it gave us a clear, indisputable record of who stood with us and who stood against us. Similarly, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on GENDA in June outed several Senators as being against transgender civil rights. Because of these votes, we now have a clear roadmap as to which Senators need to be replaced by new ones who will be outspoken advocates for marriage equality and transgender non-discrimination.

In Long Island’s Senate District 1 we have endorsed Regina Calcaterra, who has pledged to support and co-sponsor GENDA and the marriage bill. Calcaterra would unseat Ken LaValle, a 34-year incumbent who voted no on marriage equality and GENDA.

In Queens’ Senate District 11 we have endorsed Tony Avella, who has also pledged to support and co-sponsor GENDA and the marriage bill. Avella would unseat Frank Padavan, a 38-year incumbent who voted no not just on marriage equality, but also on the hate crimes bill and SONDA. Padavan is consistently a staunch opponent of LGBT equality and justice.

In Hudson Valley’s Senate District 41 we have endorsed DiDi Barrett, another candidate who has pledged her support and plans to co-sponsor GENDA and marriage. Barrett would unseat Stephen Saland, a 20-year incumbent who voted no on marriage equality and GENDA.

These candidates will help bring real change to Albany and to remove Senators who have a proven record against LGBT equality and justice. Please donate now to the Pride Agenda PAC to help Regina Calcaterra, Tony Avella and DiDi Barrett in their bids to win these crucial Senate seats, and to allow us to support other candidates across the state who are also doing the right thing.

Stay tuned to our Election Center for updates on ways to volunteer or get involved with these and other important races.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Congratulations, Ross Levi, voted top choice at inaugural “AT&T Bold Honor”

We are thrilled to report that your votes made the difference! Empire State Pride Agenda’s Ross Levi has been recognized with the the inaugural “AT&T Bold Honor” for New York City.

Last month, as part of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) month, AT&T established the “AT&T Bold Honor,” recognizing an everyday individual in the LGBT community who has made a “bold difference” during the past year. Levi received the most votes after combining the online poll at daily.gay.com/boldhonors with in-person votes cast at the Here Media NYC Pride Party on June 22.

“Through their everyday actions and passion for their work, each of our nominees redefine the concept of ‘being bold,’” said Jennifer Jones, Vice President of Diverse Markets, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “We applaud Ross Levi, and all of those recognized, for championing important issues and for continuing to fight the bold fight.”

Way to go, Ross! Who do you think should be honored next?

Carlos “Charlie” Ramos Provides a Clear Choice vs. Anti-LGBT Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.

Yesterday, we announced the first round of Pride Agenda endorsements for the 2010 election season. Today, we wanted to spotlight the Democratic primary challenge in the Bronx’s 32nd District by Carlos “Charlie” Ramos to take on New York’s arguably most openly homophobic, transphobic, anti-LGBT state legislator: Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.

As you probably know, Senator Diaz is our most vocal foe on marriage equality and transgender non-discrimination in the State Senate. He led rallies against marriage equality, spoke and voted against it on the Senate floor and is reported to have struck back room deals trying to prevent it from ever even coming to a vote. He led the debate against the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate Judiciary Committee with unfounded and disproven myths. And he asserted a “one-man veto” to remove budgetary language that would have allowed legally married same-sex couples to file jointly on their New York State income tax returns.

In stark contrast, Charlie Ramos has committed to co-sponsoring marriage equality legislation, and has stated his full support for a statewide transgender non-discrimination law. He is also pro-choice and supports full access to reproductive health.

Senator Diaz and all state legislators need to know that their attacks against the LGBT community will not go unanswered. New Yorkers understand fairness and equality, and want legislators who work to better the lives of their constituents and their families, not to find opportunities to discriminate against them. We want to send a loud and clear message that it is unacceptable that Senator Diaz chooses to thwart equality and justice for all New Yorkers.

Please donate now to the Pride Agenda PAC
to help Charlie Ramos in his bid to unseat one of New York’s most outspoken opponents of LGBT rights, and to allow us to support other candidates across the state who are doing the right thing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pride Agenda announces first round of endorsements in 2010 Elections

Last week, we let you know how excited we were to move into election season so we could work to re-elect legislators who have stood by our side and elect new ones who we can be certain will bring about real change in Albany.

Now, the time has come to make change happen.

The Pride Agenda has made its first round of endorsements for the 2010 Primary and General Elections. The 20 candidates endorsed so far have either been strong allies of the LGBT community in the New York State Legislature on issues at the top of the Pride Agenda’s public policy agenda, or have pledged their support on such issues including marriage equality for same-sex couples ending legal discrimination against transgender New Yorkers and increasing funding for LGBT health and human services providers.

This election is a crucial step toward accomplishing our governmental priorities. We have only endorsed candidates who already are or will be unabashed legislative allies who demonstrate their support for LGBT equality and justice with complete clarity. Click here to see our first round of endorsements.

But we know we can’t win unless we keep supporters of LGBT equality and justice updated and get them involved. So over the next few days, we’ll be sending you messages about some of the most important races we’re focusing on this year. You’ll read about our plans to challenge candidates who voted “no” on marriage, defend our allies who are under attack for their stand on LGBT equality and increase the ranks of LGBT state legislators.

We hope you’re as ready as we are to get to work, and that these election profiles inspire you to visit our online Election Center, sign up to volunteer on one of these campaigns or make a donation to our PAC so we can make sure these crucial races have the resources they need. We look forward to keeping you updated!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Court Strikes Down Part of DOMA, Adding to NY Marriage Momentum

By Sheilah Sable, Upstate Director of Pride In Action

Yesterday, Judge Joseph L. Tauro of the United States District Court in Boston ruled that the section of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, and that legally married gay and lesbian couples deserve the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

While appeals and litigation will continue, this ruling is a boost to marriage equality organizing nationwide, and specifically here in New York State. Full protections for our families are coming. It is not a matter of if, but when. And what we do now will determine how fast that equality will come. From Rochester to Ronkonkoma, our volunteers are getting the job done:

“I signed up new supporters of marriage equality in Rochester at the ‘Laramie Project’ show last month. The more supporters we find, the more power we will have to move (or remove) Senators,” said Shermeeka Mason, a SUNY Brockport student.

“I am out at 6 am signing up straight allies for marriage equality in Ronkonkoma at the Long Island Rail Road station. It’s hard work, but so worthwhile,” said Terri Scofield from Medford, New York.

You can join these volunteers and help bring change to New York State! Volunteer in your local area to grow the movement for marriage.

This ruling is just one more case of laws being reconsidered as more and more people recognize that LGBT families need and deserve the same support that all other families receive. Together, we can make New York the next state to join Massachusetts in winning both state and federal rights and benefits for our families.

Cuomo has pledged support for LGBT issues

The Pride Agenda’s experience with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo doesn’t match up with today’s story in The New York Times. On the same day that he announced his candidacy for Governor, Cuomo issued a video statement, shown at our Spring Dinner in Rochester, in which he clearly and directly gave his support for and pledged to work with us to win marriage equality, transgender rights and protections for LGBT students. Here is the video:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What's next for New York's LGBT community?

A message from Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross Levi:

As the 2009-10 regular legislative session came to a close late last week in Albany, we at the Pride Agenda reflected on both the victories for New York State’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the State Senate’s frustrating lack of action on many of the issues of vital importance to us.

First, the good news—our victories this session include:

– Passage of the Dignity for All Students Act, which will combat bias-based bullying, harassment and discrimination in the state’s public schools. In addition to including protections based on sexual orientation, Dignity will be the first-ever state law that includes protections based on gender identity and expression.

– Passage of the Family Health Care Decisions Act, which enables a same-sex partner to make health care decisions when the patient is not able to do so.

– Passage of legislation to require that same-sex partners be treated the same as spouses for bereavement leave from their job, so that any employer who provides bereavement leave for the death of an employee’s spouse, or the child, parent or other relatives of the spouse must also provide the same benefits for a same-sex committed partner.

– Passage of legislation to allow same-sex couples to adopt a child together. Although a same-sex partner had previously been allowed to adopt their partner’s biological child and for same-sex partners to adopt a non-biological child sequentially in a process known as “second-parent adoption,” it has been unclear whether New York law permitted a joint adoption by unmarried adult couples when neither is the biological parent.

– Passage of legislation that will expand and increase access to services for LGBT seniors.

– Health and human service providers across New York State that cater specifically to the needs of local LGBT communities will receive $5.2 million from Governor Paterson’s 2010-11 Executive Budget. However, this amount so far includes a $3.5 million decrease in funding compared to last year, specifically from amounts normally appropriated in legislative discretionary funding.

We thank our allies in the legislature, including our LGBT Assemblymembers and Senator, who helped make these accomplishments possible.

These victories, however, do not make up for the unprecedented level of frustration with the New York State Senate this year not only from the LGBT community, but from progressive groups statewide who care about equality and justice for all New Yorkers.

The Senate’s failure to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) is infuriating. In a state where 78% of New Yorkers support a bill to protect transgender people, Senators’—especially Republicans who voted as a block against the measure in committee—inability or unwillingness to represent their constituents’ desires and pass this bill is unacceptable.

In addition, the removal of a provision in the budget to allow legally married same-sex couples to file their state taxes jointly thanks to the one-man veto of Senator Ruben Diaz shows us that no matter how hard we work to change their hearts and minds, some legislators are immune to humanity or common sense.

Finally, the inability of the state so far to maintain its small amount of funding for LGBT health and human services is disappointing, and will result in layoffs and reduced or eliminated programs that support communities all across New York State. It really is a penny wise but pound foolish decision.

The Pride Agenda, however, will continue to work toward equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers, especially as the election season approaches. LGBT New Yorkers and everyone who cares about equality and justice in New York State are ready to support effective and unabashed legislative allies and oppose not only those Senators who are ideologically opposed to us, but those who are unable or unwilling to stand and deliver. Our community has been done with the closet for a long time, and we need our supporters to do the same. The Pride Agenda is eager to do our part to bring change to the chamber that has so disappointed New Yorkers these past two years.

So I hope you are ready to get to work as we move into the election season. In the next few weeks, we will have much to share with you—we’ll be making endorsements and helping to fund and staff the campaigns of candidates who have stood by our side and new ones who we can be certain will bring about real change in Albany. With supporters like you, I know that we’ll be celebrating even more victories very soon.

P.S. Our vital work during election season to create a more pro-LGBT state legislature won’t be possible without your support. Please consider signing up to volunteer or making a donation to our PAC (Political Action Committee) or today!