Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Back to New York...

In all the flurry of news surrounding California weddings and the push for marriage equality in other states, I find myself full of hope and excitement that committed, devoted, and loving couples finally are being recognized under their state’s government. While excited for California and all the happy couples, my mind keeps going back to my home state of New York where progress is slower and equality is still lacking. I keep returning to the debate surrounding Governor Paterson’s executive order to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were married where there is marriage equality, and I keep retuning to the NYS Assembly’s passage of GENDA.

On June 3rd, 2008 the NYS Assembly voted 108 to 34 to pass GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. This bill would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and includes offenses regarding gender identity or expression under the hate crimes statute. It was both an exciting passage, as was it passed by a hope-inducing margin. The bill was subsequently sent to the NYS Senate to be voted upon there. But into what kind of atmosphere was the bill being introduced?

The New York State Senate has been characterized by a slim majority by State Republicans, with Joseph Bruno, serving as Senate Majority Leader for the past twelve years. Bruno’s exercise of power on certain issues definitely did not seem to set the stage for a successful passage of GENDA.

Joseph Bruno refused to allow the Assembly-passed bill allowing same sex-couples to marry to be considered on the Senate floor. Despite the Assembly passing the Dignity for All Students Act seven years in a row, Bruno opposed the anti-bullying bill in the Senate because of its inclusion of gender identity. And regardless of the overwhelming support for GENDA, Bruno has opposed this bill that promises to protect transgender people from being discriminated against in housing, employment, credit, and other public accommodations.

It was just confirmed on Monday that Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno will not be seeking reelection in fall of 2008, and on Tuesday he stepped down from his position as temporary president of the senate and as Senate Majority Leader.

Bruno’s decision to not seek reelection provides an opportunity for a more LGBT-friendly Senator to enter the scene. Likewise, this news can be seen as an opportunity for getting the Senate to look seriously at passing GENDA and subsequently inching closer toward the day when all New Yorkers are equally protected under the law.

It isn't a done deal though...it's an opportunity, an opportunity that New Yorkers have to seize and fight to make a reality by letting the government know that inclusive legislation is exactly what our state needs.

Visit the PFLAG Action Center, at www.capwiz.com/pflag, type in your zip code, and click on your lawmaker’s page to find contact information for their in-district and Washington, D.C., offices. You can either send them an email/letter to urge them to support GENDA or set up a time to meet with them and discuss why GENDA is essential to New York citizens.

For more information on how to send a strong message to the NYS Senate regarding GENDA, click here to download the PDF version of 2008’s Bringing the Message Home, PFLAG’s grassroots handbook on in-district legislative work.

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