Oct 28 2011



Ross Levi - Empire State Pride Agenda

Last night at the Empire State Pride Agenda's  packed annual dinner, Executive Director Ross Levi laid out the legislative and political agenda for the next year. Levi first spoke of the success of the work of the Agenda for the last twenty years - especially with marriage equality. The organization was instrumental in taking New Yorkers from the around 35% for marriage to the near 60% today.

Levi spoke of the coalition and the work that was done to make marriage equality a reality. Over 125,000 calls were made from New Yorkers to their representatives easing the legislation to victory.

Most important for the New York LGBT community to hear was the work yet still to be done. Especially in passing protections for our brothers and sisters in the Transgender Community and the repeal of DOMA. Here is how Levi sees the community's future efforts;

Now the question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s next?” Well, for one thing, we cannot take our wins for granted. We must be vigilant watchdogs of our government, making sure our legislative victories hold and live up to their promise. And in November of 2012 when every legislator who voted for marriage faces reelection, we must stand by those who stood by us and make sure no has their support for equality used against them in their run for public office.

Right now, in our state, hardworking New Yorkers are being fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes simply for being transgender. Until every LGBT person is treated fairly under the law, we cannot say we are truly equal. Let us commit to getting a statewide transgender non-discrimination bill passed in New York, just like 15 other states have done.

We must also remember that there are still LGBT youth who are being bullied or who are homeless, elders who are fearful that they will be denied their dignity in long-term care facilities, and people who will face insensitivity when going to doctors and counselors. This past year, in an incredibly challenging economic climate, the Pride Agenda secured over $5M of state funding for community organizations all across the state that provide for these needs. We must continue to demand that we are visible to our government and that the state funds our fair share of the essential services we need.

We should not, however, have any illusions about the environment in which we are working. We have won an extraordinary victory, but it has also fueled our opposition:

The so-called National Organization for Marriage has pledged to spend two million dollars on defeating the courageous legislators who did the right thing on marriage equality.

The New York State Conservative party has virulently opposed, among other things, providing transgender New Yorkers their basic equality and even access to medically necessary healthcare.

Our opponents have not gone away, not by a long shot. And they don’t just want to defeat us in the legislative arena. They want to deny us the very substance of our equality and our fundamental dignity as citizens and human beings, and we will not let that happen!