Thursday, June 30, 2011

Historic Victory for Marriage Falls on Pride Weekend

Post by Intern Geoff Montes

On Friday night, history was made as the New York State Senate voted 33-29 to extend the right to marry to loving, same-sex couples across the state, ending a campaign the Pride Agenda has been working on for over ten years. New York became the sixth and largest state in the U.S. to offer such protections, instantly recharging the national dialogue over marriage equality. The momentous victory was achieved in large part due to Governor Cuomo’s unrelenting strategy for the legislation, part of which was building a coalition of statewide LGBT rights groups, which included the Empire State Pride Agenda, Freedom to Marry, Human Rights Campaign, Marriage Equality New York and Log Cabin Republicans, all of whom joined the Governor and hundreds of everyday New Yorkers to march Sunday in New York City Pride.

Immediately following the vote, crowds descended upon West Village landmark the Stonewall Inn, widely regarded as the birthplace of the gay rights movement in 1969. Thousands celebrated the passage of the historic legislation well into the night in a joyous and fitting start to New York City’s pride weekend. Similar revelry occurred at community gatherings across the state where Pride Agenda staff and board joined other LGBT activists to celebrate.

The 42nd annual New York City Pride March took place on Sunday, with organizers estimating as many as 2 million spectators. Gov. Andrew Cuomo kicked off the parade, receiving roaring cheers and proudly marching alongside girlfriend Sandra Lee, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, flanked by representatives of New Yorkers United for Marriage.

Kicking off Pride weekend, the Pride Agenda also joined the Transgender Day of Action as hundreds of supporters gathered and marched through Foley Square in Lower Manhattan demanding equal rights. Our own Jonathan Lang also spoke at a press conference Friday announcing a campaign for homeless LGBT youth.

Pandemonium in the Capitol

A Post by Albany Intern Geoff Corey

Pride Agenda staff and volunteers have survived a chaotic week of demonstrating outside the Senate chambers. We joined other marriage supporters, including coalition partners from New Yorkers United for Marriage and Queer Rising, in making our voices heard throughout the Capitol. It began on Monday, June 20. Upon arriving at the Capitol, we realized that opponents of marriage equality had filled the halls, and they brought with them signs, holy books and songs. At first we stood silently. We held our signs in the air so that everyone walking by knew both sides were represented. Yet our silent signs couldn’t drown out the choirs from conservative churches, who sang so loudly their voices echoed throughout the building.

With less than 24 hours notice, we held a Rally for Love & Marriage on Tuesday to counter the force of the opposition, but it was the conflicts in the Capitol that garnered the most attention. We couldn’t stand side-by-side with the opposition for long before they tried to tell us that being LGBT was a disease that God could cure. Silence was no longer an option. Rival chants broke out. We yelled in one voice, “God loves all! God loves all!” They yelled back “Turn from sin! Turn from sin!” Soon we were telling them to “Turn from hate! Turn from hate!” The chanting went back and forth and sometimes two people would get in heated discussions right outside the room where Republicans were meeting to decide the fate of marriage equality, but we encouraged our supporters to avoid engaging directly with the opposition and to keep our efforts focused on telling our story to our legislators.

Our voices soon became weak and hoarse. Senator Espaillat emerged from the Senate chamber to pass out water. Senator Duane often walked by and thanked us, as did Assemblymember O’Donnell. We grew tired of standing and yelling, but soon after things would quiet down a new group of marriage equality opponents would show up with new signs and new songs. We soon sang songs of our own. We had song leaders lead us in “This Little Light of Mine” and we passed out the words to a song that’s main lyric is “I told hatred to get thee behind. Love today is mine.” We did the same thing everyday and always expected an announcement from Senate Republicans about a vote, but each day ended with disappointment.

Then, on Friday June 24, we got word from multiple sources that a vote was to be held that night. It looked like the wind was blowing in our direction, but the back and forth chants continued. State troopers blocked anyone from standing outside the meeting rooms where we had been demonstrating all week, so we crowded the stairwell, which caused our voices to echo throughout the Capitol so everyone could hear us singing, “Going to the chapel and we’re gonna get married.” Some crammed into the Senate chamber to watch the vote. Most sat outside or continued chanting in the stairwell.

Things moved quickly. Nervous smiles spread through the gallery as we realized that Senators Stephen Saland and Mark Grisanti would provide the votes we needed. The votes to end marriage discrimination and allow all loving couples to marry in New York. The votes to move New York in a progressive direction once again. The votes to make history.
Lt. Governor Duffy called for a vote. Everyone squeezed each other’s hands as we sat in silence.

Then we heard it, “Ayes 33, nays 29 the bill is passed.” The tiny galleries erupted in thunderous cheers and applause. There was nowhere you could stand in the entire Capitol building without hearing the whoops and cheers of our supporters. Despite our strained voices we cheered with joy at the top of our lungs. The Senate had finally read our signs, heard our calls, and heeded our chants.

We flooded the main staircase, hugging and congratulating everyone we saw whether we knew the person or not. Activists young and old cried with smiles on our faces. All of us had been in it together, and had won a major victory together. A lone voice suddenly yelled out, “Show me what democracy looks like!” and received a thunderous response of, “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” It was a chant we had done throughout the week with no promise that our democracy would bring about equality. That night, however, it did.

Couples kissed and embraced. Some had been together over 30 years. Some had just recently met. All of them wept with joy. We have won a large victory, but the fight for equality and justice isn’t over. Until we pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, our transgender allies will still be discriminated against in the workplace, in their homes, and in public accommodations. The National Organization for (straight only) Marriage is pledging $2 million to defeat the courageous Republicans who stood up for our rights. So there will be more marching, organizing, and letter writing to come, but for now we can rejoice in knowing that marriage equality has passed, and we are one giant leap closer to achieving equality and justice for all.

Photos (in order) by Eric Krupke, Sheilah Sable, and Kiki Vassilakis.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The people deserve a vote

The time is now. We’re calling for the State Senate to allow the marriage bill to the floor for a vote, and your senator needs to hear from you. Call now!

We agree with Governor Cuomo that the people deserve a vote, and that New Yorkers need to know where their senators stand on marriage for all loving, committed same-sex couples. The end of the session is grinding on, and there are a number of issues yet to be resolved, but marriage equality is very much alive and in the mix. We urge you to pick up the phone right now and call your senator - no matter what their position may be.

As legislators continue working late into the session can you make the call right now? If you haven’t used our click-to-call tool, or even called your senator ever before, now’s the time to stake a claim in this movement and be a part of this historic moment. You simply enter your name, phone number and address, and we’ll immediately patch you through to your senator’s office. Leave a message or tell the person on the phone your name, your address, that you’re a constituent who supports marriage equality and that New Yorkers deserve the bill to come to the floor and pass.

We are standing on the cusp of equality. The hours ahead could determine the next few years for our movement. Supporters like you got us here and will get us where we need to go. Please make the call for equality now.

With fierce pride and determination,

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rally for Love and Marriage Draws Hundreds to Albany

Yesterday, over 500 New Yorkers gathered in Albany for the Rally for Love and Marriage. All five coalition partners of New Yorkers United for Marriage - Empire State Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York, Freedom to Marry, Human Rights Campaign, and Log Cabin Republicans – came together to call on Senators to pass the marriage bill before they adjourned for the summer.

With less than 24 hours notice, our supporters descended upon Albany from all across the state to cheer on our efforts and show legislators the enthusiasm behind marriage equality. Recent national polls have shown a majority of Americans now support expanding marriage rights to all loving same-sex couples, and nearly 60% of New Yorkers believe in doing the same. Legislators, faith leaders, and ordinary New Yorkers spoke to the enthusiastic crowd about why marriage equality was important to them.

Recent LGBT ally, Senator Jim Alesi (R-Rochester) took to the stage first declaring that he was a Republican (“I was born this way” he joked) while proudly affirming his support for marriage equality. He spoke of some of the criticism he’s received for changing his vote to “yes,” but he was noticeably moved by the supportive crowd that stood before him chanting “Thank you Jim! Thank you Jim!” He wasn’t the only one of our friends in the legislature to provide inspiring words. Also present were Senators Adriano Espaillat and Tom Duane, and Assemblymembers Danny O’Donnell, Teresa Sayward, Deborah Glick, Matt Titone, Harry Bronson and Richard Gottfried.

Various faith leaders spoke with passion as well. In addition, several ordinary New Yorkers shared inspiring stories about what marriage would mean to them. The crowd cheered and sang. Smiles glistened in the sun. And New Yorkers from all corners of the state spoke with one voice for equality and love.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ross Levi as Grand Marshall of Hudson Pride

On Saturday our own Ross Levi served as the Grand Marshall for the Hudson Pride Parade. Check out this great article in local newspaper The Daily Mail: “To me, pride is more than a party — it needs to be a commitment.” Read more >

Photo: David Lee/Hudson-Catskill Newspapers

Photos from Mt. Kisco Marriage and Faith event

These photos come to us from, Kathryn Ward, a mother who came to the Mt. Kisco Marriage and Faith event yesterday, part of similar events across the state organized by the Pride Agenda and our partners in New Yorkers United for Marriage. If you have photos from Sunday's events, please share them with our Facebook community by posting them on our wall.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dads calling their senators for Fathers Day

Today, hundreds of dads across New York are contacting their senators in support of marriage equality. Ask your dad to make a call today!

Support comes from New York father’s from all walks of life and from every corner of the state, as momentum to pass marriage legislation continues to build in the final days of the 2011 legislative session.

"I want what every Father wants – for society to treat all three of my children with the dignity and respect that they deserve,” said Gerald Hathaway, father of actress Anne Hathaway. “It’s time for the state legislature to ensure equality under the law for all NewYorkers, and that means allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.”

“This is an issue of basic equality and fairness,” said Paul Tagliabue, former Commissioner of the NFL. “I have an incredible son for whom I want every happiness in the world, including the joy of marriage – and all of the responsibilities, privileges and protections that come with it.”

In addition to famous dads, support for marriage comes from everyday New Yorkers. "As a father, I desperately want my three children to be happy. Gordon and I do our best to provide them with everything they need in life, just as any parents would. But the one thing we cannot give them is afamily that is treated equally under the law," said Ed Galloway of Pound Ridge. "This Father's Day, all I want is for my kids to know that their family is the same as other families, worthy of the same respect and privileges. I cannot give them this gift, but the New York State legislature can, and I hope they will finally make equality a reality for all New Yorkers and our children."

The push from fathers reflects the widespread, bipartisan support for marriage equality. The campaign continues to gain momentum in the final days of the legislative session, having passed in the Assembly Wednesday for the fourth time.
Dads, do it for your LGBT child, or for a better future for all children. Daughters and sons, make a call this Father's Day so that all LGBT parents can protect their families. Call your senator now.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunday: Join us for marriage and faith events across the state

Our faith allies in communities across the state are planning gatherings to show support for allowing all loving, committed same-sex couples to marry in the Empire State. Join us if you can! If you're planning one near you, share it with our community by leaving a comment.

Rochester: First Universalist Church, 150 Clinton Avenue South, 1:30pm

Troy: First United Presbyterian Church, 1915 5th Avenue, 12pm

Mt. Kisco: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester, 236 South Bedford Rd. (NYS Route 172), 2:30pm

Hudson: First Reformed Church, 52 Green Street, 12pm

Buffalo: Fellowship Christian Center, 1420 Main Street, 2pm

Staten Island: Unitarian Church of Staten Island, 312 Fillmore Street, 1:30pm

Long Island: Sayville Congregational UCC, 131 Middle Road #2, Sayville, 12pm

Poughkeepsie: Christ Episcopal Church, 20 Carroll Street, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601-4396, Sunday, Noon

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Weekly Agenda: Our moment is at hand

Post by Executive Director Ross Levi

Last night I was thrilled to share with you the news that LGBT New Yorkers and our families took another step closer to marriage equality as the bill passed the New York State Assembly for the fourth time in a bipartisan vote.
But we are not over the finish line yet. The fate of same-sex couples’ ability to marry in New York State rests with the State Senate. We are hopeful the legislators in that chamber will heed the voice of the 58% of New Yorkers who believe that all loving, committed couples should be able to marry here in the Empire State.
And it’s our job to bring the chorus of support to them. Please call your Senator and ask everyone you know to do the same. The Pride Agenda has launched a state-of-the-art click-to-call tool which will make placing your call as easy as technologically possible. Click here to call your senator now.

Pride in Action Programs Lead to Broad and Deep Support
More than five years ago, after passing the bill we were founded to pass - the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act - the Pride Agenda started our Pride in Action Programs: Pride in the Pulpit, Pride in Our Union and Pride in My Workplace. These programs change the hearts and minds of New Yorkers to be more welcoming of the LGBT community. Through the years this work has led to relationships and deep alliances that are now bearing fruit for our marriage campaign, as we find ourselves relying on the support of key allies in the faith, labor and business communities, often at a moment’s notice.
In The Daily Beast, John Avlon wrote "If this effort is successful, it will be in large part because a broad coalition was built, including business and union leaders as well as the activist community." Articles such as this underscore the value and need for these programs to demonstrate that our movement goes beyond Albany politics and is driven by people from all walks of life.
Visit to check out the broad and deep support that exists for marriage all over the state – a direct result of our Pride in Action Programs.

GENDA Passes the Assembly
Our community had another major legislative victory as the Assembly passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act on Tuesday evening. Long a priority of the Empire State Pride Agenda, this transgender civil rights bill is essential to ensuring that all New Yorkers are treated fairly under the law.

We’re Still Increasing Our Volume
Our outreach campaign for marriage equality continues, and we won’t stop until either the session is finally over, or we have a vote in both houses. The Pride Agenda continues to drive our volunteers to phone banks asking key constituents to call their senators. One of our supporters, Lance Bass of ‘N Sync, joined phone bankers just last night in an especially impactful night, along with Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Quinn and over 150 volunteers!
If you’re in New York City, please join us any time from 5 to 8:30 p.m. for our LAST phone bank for this campaign. It’s hosted by our labor friends at SEIU 1199, 330 West 42nd Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

Faith Leaders Speak Out
The Pride Agenda’s Pride in the Pulpit program hosted a press conference on the steps of the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester earlier this week. Bishop Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester was joined by more than 20 clergy and faith leaders to call on the legislature to pass marriage equality legislation.
“Marriage is a sacramental rite between two people who love each other deeply enough to want to spend the rest of their lives together,” said the Bishop. “That is enough of a reason to ensure that it is available as a rite and as a right to gay and straight couples. I have been married to my lovely bride Roja for nineteen years and we have two children. I would like my gay and lesbian neighbors to have the same privilege, support and joy.”

Editorial Strategy Comes to Fruition
Over the last several years, we have been meeting with the editorial boards of the state’s major newspapers. Virtually every one of them have now written in support of marriage equality. After meeting with Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle three times over the past eight years, it was particularly gratifying to see them finally stand by our community.

Since the last vote on marriage, the influential Long Island newspaper Newdsay also came around toward the position of everyday Long Islanders, and actually editorialized for marriage three times this legislative session. This morning, Newsday featured a moving, but educational op-ed from longtime Pride Agenda supporters Susanne and Carl Richter. The Pride Agenda worked with the Richters to help them share the story of their love for their lesbian daughter in print.
In these final few days, we have not slowed our efforts. Though we’ve been running a high-intensity campaign since day one, it actually feels as though we have accelerated. Here in the 11th hour, in the final few moments to make sure that all loving, committed New Yorkers can get married here in New York State, we cannot allow our momentum to falter. Victory is within our reach and we must take that final step.

Onwards to Equality!

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Marriage Passes in the Assembly - Now on to the Senate. CALL NOW

Last night, LGBT New Yorkers and our families took another step closer to marriage equality as the bill passed the New York State Assembly for the fourth time today with bipartisan support. This vote is a victory that reflects many years of work by the Pride Agenda and others across the state. But we are not there yet.

Now, it comes to down to the State Senate where we are hopeful that the legislators in that chamber will heed the voice of the 58% of New Yorkers who believe that all loving, committed couples should be able to marry here in the Empire State.

While today’s victory is critical, it does not mean marriage is the law of the state or the nation. We must continue to work for passage through the Senate so same-sex couples can finally to get married right here at home. We need you to call your senator now.

You’ll be automatically connected to your senator’s office where you can urge swift passage of marriage equality legislation. Please make the call now and ask your friends and family to do the same!

Forward this email to any New Yorker you know who cares about equality and justice for LGBT people.

We offer our thanks to Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver for being a steadfast champion of this issue in the Assembly; the sponsor of the bill in that chamber, Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell, for his leadership; and the supporters in the Assembly who voted in a bi-partisan fashion for this measure over the last three years.

Now call your senator so we can take the final step in our journey towards marriage equality.

Onward to justice!

Ross D. Levi
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Weekly Agenda: "The Final Stretch"

Post by Executive Director Ross Levi

We are in the final stretch. This is our last chance this legislative session to make progress on our two legislative priorities: the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act(GENDA) and marriage. There are indications that the Assembly will take up GENDA next week, where we expect it to pass for a fourth time. We’re working hard to keep up the pressure so that should marriage go to the Senate floor in the last days of session, the support will be there for it to pass. These are our final few moments to advance a transgender civil rights bill and pass marriage equality so all loving, committed New Yorkers can marry, right here at home.

New York Business for Marriage
Companies and business leaders across New York State added their voices to the growing chorus of New Yorkers who are calling on New York State legislators to pass a marriage bill before the legislative session ends. Due to the hard work of the Pride Agenda and our coalition partners, nearly 50 leading statewide corporations like A|X Armani Exchange, The Corcoran Group, McGraw-Hill, Ogilvy & Mather, Outten & Golden, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and Xerox Corporation publicly added their support to our movement for marriage equality. Joining them are more than 250 local businesses, many of which, alongside Mayor Tom Richards, declared their support in Rochester earlier this week.

New Ad and Mailers
As longtime Pride Agenda supporters, Iris and Paul Blumenthal took the courageous step of telling their story and that of their two sons to television audiences across the state in the form of an ad and a dedicated mailing sponsored by New Yorkers United for Marriage. It is because of acts like these that specific state senators are hearing from their constituents in these final critical moments of the campaign. We are honored to count this family as stalwart supporters of the Pride Agenda.

Critical Voices in Critical Districts
The Pride Agenda’s Lynn Faria and I both spoke at press conferences in the outer boroughs of New York City this past week. I was in the Bronx, and Lynn was in Queens. In both locations we were pleased to be joined by virtually every elected official representing those districts, underscoring the nearly 60% support for marriage across the state. What a show of support!

Reaching our Senators
This week the Pride Agenda personally delivered more than 7,000 hand-signed postcards to the offices of select senators on behalf of the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition. The postcards, urging them to say "I Do" to marriage equality, were collected by the Pride Agenda and were the result of a coalition-directed mailing campaign. These "drops" augmented the 25,000 postcards that were delivered by the coalition last week.
Our "Family Photo Album: Picture Equality" campaign is a resounding success with hundreds of New Yorkers sending their senators family photos with a note explaining why marriage really matters to them. We continue to ask all of our supporters to “Picture Equality” and to let us know when you’ve sent a photo to your senator. In these final few moments, everything we can do matters immensely.

Galvanizing Support Across the State
Recognizing that working to pass marriage equality was going to be a priority for our community, the Pride Agenda convened and co-hosted a statewide meeting in Albany this past January of the scores of local and statewide leaders on LGBT issues, including union leaders, clergy and organizations in solidarity. There, the Pride Agenda was asked to implement a system of information sharing to keep the marriage discussion and coordination going. We are proud that we were able to maximize our long-standing roots in local communities to do just that. Since that time, groups across the state have been meeting regularly to keep each other up to date with the latest information and identify opportunities for cooperation. The Pride Agenda strongly believes our movement is most effective when we are all able to harness the incredible commitment and talents of activists from across the Empire State.

Hudson Valley Rallies Support
The Pride Agenda had a remarkably successful evening at the home of Hermes Mallea and Carey Maloney in the beautiful Hudson Valley. We were joined by almost 300 supporters who took the time out of their busy lives to raise critical funds for our work and send pictures and letters to their elected officials in Albany in support of marriage and transgender non-discrimination. In the midst of the noise that accompanies the end of the legislative session, we must remember to open our arms to new allies and welcome their help in our movement.

I wish I could predict the outcome of the next few weeks, but I can’t. All I know is that with hard work and dedication, fueled by the righteousness of our cause, we can prevail.

Thank you for all you do every day for the LGBT community and our families. Know that the Pride Agenda will not rest until we have won true equality and can further our quest for justice.

Onwards in Unity,
Ross D. Levi

PS - We’re recruiting volunteers and staffing multiple phone banks every night. If you can give a few hours, please contact Nicholas Galbraith at We really appreciate your commitment!

Say It Loud

Post by Pride Agenda Albany intern Geoff Corey

My name is Geoff Corey. I’m the Pride Agenda’s Albany Office intern and am excited to be doing this work. I’m a Political Science student at the University at Albany, and I minor in LGBTQ Issues. I’ll be doing all sorts of work for the Pride Agenda all summer long, and my first assignment was to table this last weekend during the "Say It Loud: Black and Latino Pride Festival” on Saturday, June 4.

The festival is a one-day event held as an opportunity for LGBT people of color to come together in solidarity to honor their diversity and individuality. As the sun shined on the Hudson River Waterfront, the Pride Agenda passed out information about marriage equality and transgender equality and justice to incredibly receptive community members. We handed out letters addressed to senators urging them to support the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). Many people were shocked to hear that it is still legal to fire, or evict someone in New York State based on their gender expression or identity and quickly provided their signature and information on a letter.

Our transgender rights/upstate organizer, Christopher Argyros, also collected pictures of LGBT families for our Family Photo Album: Picture Equality project in support of Marriage Equality. Families pasted their photo on a piece of paper and beneath it wrote a letter urging their senator to support marriage equality legislation. These letters and photos will be sent to senators in the next few weeks, every day, leading up to the end of session on June 20, so that they get a glimpse of real people, and make a connection to those who’s quality of life will improve and be affected by the passage of the marriage equality bill.

With the music playing, the food cooking, and the people smiling, the Pride Agenda collected over 100 letters in support of GENDA, and educated community members about issues of importance to the LGBT community and our families. Whether they were LGBT, straight allies, people of color, young, old, or middle aged, everyone enjoyed the great day of music, food, and activism.

The Pride Agenda will be marching, tabling, and partnering with other organizations around New York State. This weekend, we will be at the Capital District Pride Parade and Festival on Sunday, June 12 in Washington Park in Albany. You can volunteer to help table and collect letters and photos by contacting Christopher Argyros, at or (518) 649-8140. Also don’t forget that every Wednesday night through June 15, there will be phone banking at the SEIU 1199 office at 155 Washington Avenue from 6:00 – 8:30 PM. For more information about Pride Agenda events, see our Program Calendar.

Troy Night Out

Post by Transgender Rights Organizer Christopher Argyros

With the summer finally upon us in Central NY, we had the perfect setting for a successful evening of artistic activism last week at Troy Night Out, a monthly arts and cultural event that takes place every month in downtown Troy. Galleries and stores kept their doors open for the evening, local musicians played all over town, and restaurants were hoppin’. The Pride Agenda shared a storefront space with Human Rights Campaign and Trans Legal Services along the main drag in Troy, which became a sort of LGBT advocacy “headquarters” for the evening.

The Pride Agenda brought art and LGBT advocacy to the evening with our Family Photo Album: Picture Equality project. We took photos of participants out on the street, printed them out at “headquarters” with a portable photo printer, and adhered the photo to a hand-written letter that each participant addressed to their state senator.

This being the first time I had done the photo project at an event, I was a bit nervous that folks would be camera shy or weary of a stranger taking their photo. But as the evening progressed, I met so many eager participants that any apprehension quickly subsided. Two fantastic Pride Agenda volunteers, Bryan and Nic, helped immensely. Bryan manned the table on the sidewalk to encourage people passing by to get involved, while Nic womanned the printer and letter-writing table. I was the guy with the camera, and I had no problem eliciting smiles for marriage equality. With three of us working in tandem, the project ran smoothly, even though at times there was a line at the printing table.

By the end of the night we had a substantial stack of letters, each one sending a personal message to the senators about love and equality - a unique sort of photo album. I was surprised at how moved I was when I got home and had a chance to read through all of the letters together. Many were from straight allies that expressed support for their LGB friends and hope that soon they too would have the right to marry the person they love. One young gay man wrote, “It is my dream to have my brothers and sisters one day attend my wedding as I have attended theirs.” One newlywed same-sex couple wrote, “We just got married in Vermont – all of our friends and family joined us and we had an amazing time. We also spent a lot of money that could have gone to the New York economy if you offered us equal rights.” One letter from a happily married, older straight couple simply read, “Dear Senator, Do the right thing. Vote for Marriage Equality.”

If you would like to be a part of our Family Photo Album, it is not too late! Please send letters with photos to me, Christopher Argyros. We are accepting letters via post (Empire State Pride Agenda, 126 State St, Albany NY 12209) or email (

All letters must be received BY MONDAY JUNE 13th
. Be sure to include name and address on each letter!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pride Agenda across New York last weekend

The past weekend was a busy one for the Pride Agenda, with events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday taking place across the state.

On Friday, June 3 a group of local elected officials, community leaders and statewide activists gathered in the Bronx for a press conference to express their support for marriage equality. The conference was led by openly gay District Leader Kenny Agosto, who serves as a board member for the Bronx Rainbow Independent Democratic Association (BRIDA) and the Bronx Community Pride Center, which organized the event. Speakers included State Senators Jose Serrano, Gustavo Rivera and Jeff Klein, Assemblymember Jose Rivera, City Council member Annabel Palma, Erica Diaz (the openly gay granddaughter of State Sen. Ruben Diaz) and Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross Levi, among others. In stating his support, Ross said “The Empire State Pride Agenda is proud to stand with the leaders and people of the Bronx because we know they understand and celebrate family, fairness and diversity.”

On Saturday, June 4 around 300 guests gathered in Germantown, NY for A Hudson Valley Engagement, celebrating 20 years of the Pride Agenda. The party took place at the home of Hermes Mallea and Carey Maloney and you can click here to see the photos.

Sunday, June 5 was the 19th annual Queens Pride Parade, which took place on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights. Pride Agenda staff and volunteers walked in the parade, along with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Council Member Daniel Dromm and State Senators Tom Duane, Tony Avella and Mike Gianaris. A video of the parade can be seen here.

Also on June 5, the Pride Agenda held a marriage equality and family panel at the Congressional Church of Huntington on Long Island. Consisting of three same-sex married couples, the panel discussed the importance of marriage equality to congregants following services. After the panel, members were encouraged to write letters to their state senators as part of the Family Photo Album: Picture Equality campaign, urging them to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Call Now! Transgender Rights Bill Moving in the Assembly

We’ve heard from our sources in Albany that there might be a vote on the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) as early as Monday afternoon. Now is the moment for you to pick up your phone and urge your Assemblymember to vote in favor of New York State’s statewide transgender civil rights bill (A.5039).

Currently under New York State law, a person can lose their job, be refused service in a restaurant, kicked out of a public library or evicted from their home simply because of how they express their gender.

All hardworking New Yorkers, including transgender people, should have the chance to earn a living and provide for and protect themselves and their families. Nobody should have to live in fear that they can be legally fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.

GENDA would make sure that all New Yorkers are treated fairly and granted equal protection under the law.

You can quickly identify your assemblymember and their phone number at Or if you know your assemblymember already, you can reach them on the New York State Assembly switchboard at 518-455-4100.

We have the Albany and Rochester Chiefs of Police, the state’s leading women’s rights organizations including the League of Women Voters of New York State, Family Planning Advocates of New York State and NARAL Pro-Choice NY and thousands of everyday New Yorkers on our side. Now is the time to add your voice to the chorus.

This is our chance this legislative session to get transgender equality and justice passed through the State Assembly. Call now!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Speaker Christine Quinn visits NYUM Phone Banks

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn stopped by phone banks in Manhattan Tuesday night to lend support to the hard-working volunteers making calls to voters across New York State regarding the ongoing campaign for marriage equality. The Pride Agenda has helped to organize the phone banks which happen every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night as a part of the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition which includes the Human Rights Campaign, Marriage Equality New York, Freedom to Marry and Log Cabin Republicans.
Volunteers have the integral job of speaking to constituents who support marriage equality and connecting them through to their legislators to make sure their voices are heard. If you are interested in helping out with the phone banks, please contact Nicholas Galbraith at or click here to sign up using an online form.