Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pride Agenda reacts to positive DOMA development

The Justice Department has announced it will stop defending DOMA in court, marking a "major legal policy shift." [NYT]

Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross D. Levi had this to say:
"It is excellent news that the Justice Department has realized it can no
longer reasonably defend the unconstitutional, so-called 'Defense of Marriage
Act' (DOMA), and that the federal government has recognized that it should not
be hurting LGBT families by denying us the protections of marriage. DOMA was an
unfair attack on loving, same-sex couples and our families and a further
obstacle placed on legally married same-sex couples who reside in New York and
elsewhere. We are inspired to redouble our efforts here in New York, working
with Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to allow same-sex couples to marry
here in our home state."

Long Island Update: Growing support, Faith panels, Star Awards and upcoming opportunities

Post by Long Island Organizer Joanna Solmonsohn

The Pride Agenda and our many Long Island activists have had a busy few months and are gearing up to continue our work to achieve marriage and transgender civil rights.

A recent Siena College poll shows that statewide, about 57% of New Yorkers support allowing same-sex couples to marry. Public approval of marriage equality is even higher in New York’s suburbs. According to the poll, 61% support equality. Support for transgender civil rights is even higher. A Global Strategy Group poll found that 78% of New York voters support passage of such a law. Again, support is stronger in suburbs, with 82% of people in support of protections for transgender New Yorkers.

This information doesn’t surprise those of us who have been out in the community talking to our friends and neighbors. We know that the majority of them are on the side of equality and justice.

Long Island’s Newsday has recently published articles on marriage equality. Yancey Roy, who writes for the Politics Section of the paper, points out that Long Island Senators will be key to passing the bill. Daniel Akst—a member of the popular Long Island newspaper Newsday’s editorial board—published an op-ed in favor of same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

Activists on the ground are working hard to engage our neighbors in our work and ensure that our state senators know it’s time to treat all New Yorkers fairly. As part of these efforts Long Island couples have been sharing the reasons why marriage equality is important to them at congregations around the island. Several months ago our Pride in the Pulpit-Long Island group initiated a program entitled “Marriage Equality & Families.” Its goal is to increase support for marriage equality by speaking to, and connecting with, fellow Long Islanders. Congregations that have hosted the panel include the United Church of Rockville Center, The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Shelter Rock, Temples Beth-El of Great Neck and Sinai of Roslyn, and the South Nassau Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Freeport.

In order to celebrate all of the work being done on the Island by our many volunteers, the Pride Agenda hosted its annual Star Awards Celebration in Huntington on January 29th. Three outstanding activists were honored for their contributions to our fight for LGBT equality and justice. The honorees included Cindy Hacken, Rev. Paul Ratzlaff and Maria Studer.

The Pride Agenda cannot do its work without the help of our many activists. If you wish to become a strong and articulate advocate and/or ally for LGBT equality and justice, join activists from around the state for a Community Ambassador Training on either Tuesday, March 29 or Thursday, March 31 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. The training is offered online and via conference call at no charge to participants.

Also, be sure to join us in Albany on Monday, May 9 to call for LGBT equality and justice. Equality & Justice Day is the Pride Agenda’s annual advocacy day bringing the statewide movement together and includes a rally, workshops, caucuses and an opportunity to speak directly with your legislator about the issues that matter to LGBT New Yorkers and our allies. It is also the largest statewide gathering of LGBT and allied New Yorkers and a unique opportunity to strengthen our ties and build the coalitions we need to win. Join us in Albany on Monday, May 9 to make your voice heard!

To get involved in the Pride Agenda’s work on Long Island, contact Long Island Program Organizer, Joanna Solmonsohn at jsolmonsohn AT prideagenda DOT org.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

News Sweep—Marriage

New York
Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised last Wednesday to push the State Legislature to take up marriage once again. The Assembly has passed the bill three times with bipartisan support, and leadership in the Republican-controlled Senate has said they will not attempt to block a vote.

With recent polls indicating that public approval of marriage equality is even higher in New York’s suburbs (61 percent, versus 56 percent statewide), advocates are questioning the lack of support from the Long Island State Senate delegation. Daniel Akst—a member of the popular Long Island newspaper Newsday’s editorial board—published an op-ed in favor of same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

The New York Times also editorialized once again in favor of marriage last week, and the Syracuse Post-Standard joined them for Valentine’s Day, and the Buffalo News joined them this morning.

Rhode Island
A bill that would legalize marriage for same-sex couples is being considered in the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee. If the committee passes it, the bill will then need to make its way through the House and the more conservative Senate. Rhode Island’s new Gov. Lincoln Chafee threw his support behind the bill in a letter to the committee, declaring the matter an issue of “fundamental fairness.”

New Hampshire
Recent polling shows that only 26% of New Hampshire voters would vote to repeal the marriage equality law, while 62% would vote to keep it in place. Despite this, an attempt to repeal the two-year-old marriage law is scheduled for debate on Thursday in the house judiciary committee. However, even the bill’s sponsors do not believe the repeal would make it past Gov. John Lynch.

The Maryland Judicial Proceedings Committee is expected to vote soon to send the marriage equality bill to the Senate floor. The bill, which has 18 co-sponsors, needs 24 votes to pass through the Senate. A total of 22 have publicly supported the legislation, one recent switch being Sen. James Brochin, a Democrat who admitted that “the transition to supporting marriage has not been an easy one, but the uncertainty, fear, and second-class status that gays and lesbians have to put up with is far worse and clearly must come to an end.”

Washington State
Over the past two days, marriage equality bills have been introduced in the Washington state senate and house. Senator Ed Murray has said that same-sex partners have all the same rights as married straight couples, but that it is time that these partnerships be recognized as marriages.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Out for Equality

Please join us this year, as activists from across the state once again gather in Albany on Monday, May 9 for Equality & Justice Day. If we’re going to pass legislation to allow loving, same-sex couples to marry, protect the basic civil rights of transgender New Yorkers, and maintain funding for culturally competent health and human services for LGBT people, it is critical that our legislators hear from constituents who care about equality and justice. Sign up today for our special early bird rate, offered for a limited time only.

This is the largest statewide gathering of LGBT and allied New Yorkers and a unique opportunity to bring the movement together, strengthen our ties and build the coalitions we need to win. It includes a rally, workshops, caucuses and an opportunity to speak directly with your legislator about the issues that matter to our community. Join us and make your voice heard!

After a year of building up our base of support in key areas of the state, we came out of the 2010 elections in a better position than ever before, and ready for a strong showing in Albany. The theme this year is “OUT for Equality.” We need all fair-minded New Yorkers – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender AND our wonderful allies – to come out in support of a better Empire State. Won’t you be part of this powerful day?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hi everyone!

I’m a new intern at the Pride Agenda along with Geoff, so I’ll be posting on here for the next several months. My name is Kerry McGrath, and I’m a junior at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. I’m a sociology major and a writing minor; I also tutor in my school’s writing center, help lead a mentoring program, and am a member of the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. I’m spending the semester here in New York City, interning at the Pride Agenda and co-directing a free SAT prep program for underprivileged high school students. Ultimately I want to pursue a career in advocacy. So far my time at the Pride Agenda has been a wonderful learning experience, and I’m so glad I get to participate in the movement for equal rights for LGBT families and individuals!

New report proves urgent need for transgender equality and justice

Post by Director of Upstate Organizing Sheilah Sable

The results of the recent survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) present a troubling picture of everyday life for transgender Americans, who endure blatant discrimination without the benefit of legal protections. The findings of the survey, which was completed by 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals across the country, present compelling statistics, previously unavailable and inaccessible. Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey says that the discrimination faced by transgender people mirrors anti-gay and lesbian biases “taken to the life-threatening extreme.”

The scope of the information gathered implicates nearly every system and institution in the country as part of the problem of transgender discrimination, including families, medical providers, educational institutions, law enforcement and government agencies. Such widespread discrimination and blatant disregard for transgender people’s lives contributes to the disturbingly high levels of unemployment, homelessness, illness, addiction and incarceration that plague the community. Nearly 90% of respondents reported harassment, mistreatment or discrimination in the workplace, underscoring the urgent need for government protections for a community encased by intolerance.

Here in New York State, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) would add gender identity and expression to New York’s human rights laws, making it illegal to be fired from a job, evicted from a home or denied a loan simply for being transgender or gender non-conforming. The community already exhibits a striking degree of perseverance to overcome immense adversities that would be extremely challenging even under circumstances where this level of discrimination didn’t exist, such as becoming homeless or losing custody of your children. NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling praises the resiliency of this “marginalized yet determined community,” saying “their honesty and strength should be rewarded by our very best efforts to change the story so that… discrimination will yield further.”

The Pride Agenda recently outlined a blueprint for how to meet the health and human services needs of the LGBT community, including transgender-specific measures like encouraging government agencies and medical facilities to be inclusive to transgender people, ensuring appropriate medical care, and reducing the risk of violence in jails and homeless shelters. To learn more about the various workshops and educational materials offered through the Pride Agenda, aimed at achieving equality and justice for transgender and gender non-confirming New Yorkers, please contact me at ssable AT prideagenda DOT org.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday news sweep: Growing bipartisan support

Even though Republicans now hold a 32-30 majority in the New York Senate, a number of Republicans across the country have been warming to marriage for same-sex couples – and speaking out about it. This bodes well for a tip in favor of the measure in New York, where a majority of constituents already approve legalization, and where many Republicans in the Assembly voted for marriage equality

Opposition waning
The past decade has seen visible change in the Republican Party’s stance on LGBT rights. Evidence of this trend continues to emerge, with polling indicating that by December 2010, 74% of Republicans supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” including 8 Senators and 15 Representatives. Groups like GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans have also been gaining much wider acceptance within the party.

Bush, McCain daughters support marriage equality

Last week more evidence of a generation shift toward LGBT acceptance in younger Republicans arose, with George W. Bush’s daughter Barbara taping a pro-marriage equality video, breaking with her father’s effort to constitutionally ban such initiatives. She joins Senator John McCain’s daughter Meghan as being an outspoken Republican supporter of marriage equality and LGBT rights, despite having a high-profile father who currently holds more conservative beliefs.

As MD marriage vote nears, Republican switches sides
In Maryland, where marriage equality is coming closer to a vote, Republican State Senator Allan Kittleman rejected the Republican Senate Caucus’ official opposition to the measure after abandoning his proposed civil union bill which failed to garner enough support. He plans on voting for marriage equality, saying that “As a strong proponent of personal and economic liberty/freedom, I simply could not, in good conscience, vote against [Senate Bill] 116.” He also added that “our government is not a theocracy.”

A gay Republian presidential candidate

For further evidence the that Republican Party is evolving look no further than Fred Karger, who could potentially become the first ever openly gay presidential candidate for a major political party.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Winter Heat Kick-Off

Post by Development Director Johanna Osburn

Last night 50 fabulous ladies (and some allies!) joined us at Vig 27 to kick-off the Pride Agenda’s annual dance party celebrating women in the community, Winter Heat! Pride Agenda Board member and event co-chair Marla Hassner spoke about the impact of sponsorships on our work this year, and event co-chair Antoinette Kenmuir-Evans talked about the importance and fun of joining the steering committee. Co-chairs of the event for the last 3 years, they shared their perspectives on why the event is so important, and how it has provided us with a fun way to celebrate the strong leadership and vibrant contributions of women in the LGBT community (and of course, raise some critical funds for our work). We were also joined by their new co-chair, Patti Flanagan, and a number of members of the steering committee.

Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross D. Levi was also present to thank the crowd for coming out and reiterated Marla’s sentiments by pointing out that none of the victories that the Pride Agenda has achieved in its twenty year history could have happened without the involvement of women – as Board members, staff, volunteers and donors.

Winter Heat was my first event as a Pride Agenda staff member six years ago, and it is one of my favorite evenings of the year, bringing together women from all over the area, united in the fight for LGBT equality and justice. And I love that more men have joined us to show their support of their friends as well.

Winter Heat will be held at renowned Chelsea hotspot, Marquee, on March 23. Our goal is to pack Marquee’s dance floor with over 500 women and allies and last night’s kick-off was the perfect start. If you would like to join the party on March 23, click here for sponsorship opportunities. See you at Winter Heat!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pride in the Pulpit Newsletter

At a recent local Pride in the Pulpit meeting, a discussion developed about how clergy in the area can continue to be advocates for LGBT equality. At one point, the conversation shifted to a dialogue about a minister who everyone felt in his heart was in favor of LGBT equality, but for various reasons, pretended to be the opposite. The conversation suddenly came to a halt when a small laugh erupted from the corner of the table. The laugh came from a clergywoman who has attended almost every meeting. She was responsible for encouraging many of her colleagues to be stronger proponents of transgender civil rights and marriage equality. She looked up at the group and said: "We are who we pretend to be. Your heart does me no good if your words don't back it up." With that statement made, the group proceeded to plan their initiatives for the upcoming months.

I think that it is time for New York State to start speaking from its heart. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that 56% of New Yorkers support marriage for LGBT people. Our own polling indicates that 78% of New Yorkers support GENDA. The heart of New York State beats for LGBT equality, but the words of our laws do not back this up. In 2011, let us work to end this inconsistency. Let us advocate for what is in our hearts and help our government catch up with its people’s moral conscience.

In Peace,

Kate McDonough
Lead Organizer, coordinator of the Pride in the Pulpit program


Kate McDonough's New Position at the Empire State Pride AgendaI am excited to announce that I have recently been promoted to Lead Organizer. In this new role I will continue to oversee the Pride in the Pulpit program, but will have the additional responsibility of coordinating our organizational wide marriage campaign. I would like to thank all of you for your hard work and support of the Pride in the Pulpit program. I look forward to continuing to work with you both through Pride in the Pulpit and in my new capacity as Lead Organizer.

Presbyteries Throughout the Country Vote on Whether or Not to Ordain LGBTQ Clergy
In January, many Presbyteries throughout the country voted on amendment 10-A, which if ratified, will remove all barriers to ordination for called LGBTQ and Queer people. The Presbyteries that voted this month include: Eastminster, Newton, New Castle, Cayuga-Syracuse, Eastern, Virginia, Elizabeth, Genesee Valley, Mid-Kentucky, San Jose, Beaver-Butler, Western, Reserve, Denver, Utica, Sierra Blanca, Long Island, Riverside, Western North Carolina and Huntingdon. Click here to find out how they voted!

The vote count is extremely close and voting on this important amendment will continue into the spring, so be sure to find out when your Presbytery or the Presbytery of someone you know is voting. Click here to find out more information about 10-A and what you can do to help!

In Memory of David Kato of Integrity Uganda
Ugandans and human rights advocates throughout the world mourn and condemn the brutal and senseless murder of gay Ugandan human rights defender, David Kato. He was brutally beaten to death with a hammer on Wednesday, January 26th. Pride in the Pulpit members involved in international LGBT rights knew and worked side by side with Mr. Kato. Our prayers are with them as well as with Mr. Kato's family and the human rights community of Uganda. In honor of David Kato's memory, please read his unpublished op-ed. Take a moment to forward it along to others so that his words can be read and the vision of the Uganda he wished to see does not die with him.

To get involved with the Pride in the Pulpit program, please contact Kate AT prideagenda DOT org.