Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Weekly Agenda: No Stone Unturned

Post by Executive Director Ross Levi

What an incredible week it has been here at the Empire State Pride Agenda! Progress is being made on many fronts as we continue the countdown toward the scheduled end of this legislative session on June 20. The clock is ticking and now is the time that we really need your help.

Depth of Union Support for Marriage Demonstrated
Just yesterday I was honored to be part of an unprecedented event demonstrating widespread union support for marriage equality, hosted by New York State AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum - who is also a member of the Empire State Pride Agenda Board of Directors. Our Pride in Our Union program has been laying the groundwork and building relationships for years so that I could stand on the steps of New York City Hall with these two great union leaders along with United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, Eastern Regional Vice-President of Actors’ Equity Association (and former Miss America) Kate Shindle, Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU 32BJ Hector Figueroa, Executive Vice-President of 1199SEIU Aida Garcia, Vice President Bill Henning of Communications Workers of America 1180 and Scott Somers of United Auto Workers Region 9A.

Progress Made on Transgender Equality and Justice
As part of our ongoing work with the New York State Department of Health to improve the arcane and draconian requirements to change gender markers on birth certificates, we are collecting stories of transgender New Yorkers who have undergone significant hardship due to mismatched gender markers on documents like birth certificates. If you would like to add your story to this effort please contact Christopher Argyros at

Also, one of the state’s leading women’s organizations, Family Planning Advocates, committed its support to the growing voices urging the legislature to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).

Communities of Color Leaders for Marriage

I am proud to share with you the success of our efforts to make sure the voices of leaders from communities of color who publicly endorse marriage equality are heard loud and clear. We recruited a number of high profile individuals to sign onto a public letter including Phillippe Abraham, Chair of the Capital District Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Glen Michael-Francis, Executive Director of Griot Circle, Marjorie J. Hill, Chief Executive Officer of GMHC, Bishop Zachary G. Jones, Executive Director of the Unity Fellowship Breaking Ground, Inc., Eric L. Adams, State Senator, Tandra LaGrone, Executive Director of In Our Own Voices and Stephaun E. Wallace, Interim Executive Director / Director of Programs at The MOCHA Center, Inc.

Record-Breaking Spring Dinner
We hosted our 12th Annual Spring Dinner in Rochester last weekend. Attended by more than 700 members of the community, the dinner has grown to be one of the season's most highly regarded events, thanks in no small part to the hard work of the members and leadership of the local Dinner Steering Committee. Rich Ognibene, a local activist and 2008 New York State Teacher of the Year was given our Community Service Award and Eric T. Schneiderman made his first presentation in his capacity as New York State Attorney General to the Pride Agenda. We were pleased to be joined by so many elected officials from the area. A visit by Senator James Alesi garnered a lot of press attention statewide because this year he has moved publicly from a no vote on marriage to being undeclared.

Outreach Continues
The Pride Agenda is also stepping up our phone banking efforts. Volunteers for the coalition New Yorkers United for Marriage have been phone banking at the 1199SEIU facilities two evenings a week. The Pride Agenda has started recruiting callers for two additional evenings, essentially doubling capacity during this critical time. Phone banks are now held Monday through Thursday through the end of session. If you’d like to volunteer, please contact Nicholas Galbraith at

In the final four weeks of the legislative session the Pride Agenda is digging deep to build support and increase the call for the passage of GENDA and marriage. As I walk through the corridors of Albany I hear again and again that our efforts are gaining traction, but there is still so much more to be done – in such a short period of time.

I pledge to you that the Pride Agenda will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of equality and justice – and I ask you to do the same.

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

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