Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pride Agenda's LGBT Equality and Justice Day in Albany

Perhaps it was a good thing that neither I, nor the technicians at the sprawling Convention Center in Albany, could figure out how to hook up my laptop to a local internet service provider. The Empire State Pride Agenda had asked me to come up to the state capital and 'live-blog' Tuesday's LGBT Equality and Justice Day, but the technical snafu meant that I wasn't necessarily tethered to the blogger area which freed me to explore the action around me.

In any case, I'm not sure that 'live-blogging' the event would have been such a hot thing (even if the Human Rights Campaign certainly gave it a good try).

I mean, I could certainly have written stuff like "the energy is tremendous and contagious" - and it sorta was in a non-Swine flu kinda way - but I'm not sure how much of the sentiment might have carried through to blog readers. It's also though to 'live blog' events at which speaker after speaker is talking to a crowd trying to energize them but not necessarily saying something news-worthy.

The truly awe-inspiring thing was the number of people who participated this year. The Pride Agenda estimated it at 2,000 and said that they actually had to turn people back since all buses were packed (or, as the Pride Agenda's Alan Van Capelle put it, the event was a bigger draw than a Madonna concert) and it certainly showed. The Convention Center was packed and more than one speaker mentioned that it wasn't every day that legislators saw that many people gathered for a lobby day on a specific issue.

For those who made it to Albany, the Pride Agenda was urging attendees to lobby for three specific bills - The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), and the marriage equality bill - but it was clear that the large numbers and the excitement in the crowd mostly stemmed from the prospect that a marriage equality might be within reach in New York State.

This follows Governor David Paterson's recent high-profile statements indicating that he would push for passage of a marriage equality bill possibly during the current legislative session. It was certainly a thrill to see him receive an Obama-like rock-star welcome by the crowd gathered at the Center but, as much as I like the Governor, I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed.

First, after shocking the body politic earlier this month by saying that he would push for a vote on the bill - whether the votes for passage were there or not - the Governor back-tracked a bit last week by telling reporters that he would follow the State Senate Majority Leader's lead on whether to push for a Senate vote (the Assembly passed a marriage equality bill in 2007 and is expected to do so again if a similar bill reaches the floor; the Senate majority has never allowed a similar bill to reach the floor for a vote).

The current Senate Majority Leader is, of course, Senator Malcom Smith, who - like Paterson - is the first African-American person to hold the post - and someone who has shown great leadership on marriage equality in the past. But with most marriage equality advocates lining up behind Paterson's marriage equality push, Smith has resisted the pressure to move on such a bill, and has said that he won't allow a vote unless he is certain that the votes are there to ensure passage.

Some have said that his reluctance doesn't necessarily come from pragmatism but, instead, stems from the political interests that allowed him to become majority leader (if you remember, his nomination was hijacked by three Democrats, including homophobic Senator Ruben Diaz, who said they would not support him unless he acceded to their demands, Diaz' demand being that the Senate would not vote on a marriage equality bill in the current session).

Anyway, after Paterson's big speech, I was invited to a press conference with the Governor where I was also surprised to hear him say that he had yet to personally lobby any legislator on the issue. I can't say whether this is how it's done with Albany on other bills, but I would have thought that the Governor might have been working on certain legislators for support of what he certainly has called one of his top legislative priorities. Let's hope he begins to do so soon.

With the morning speeches done, Equality & Justice Day participants headed to the legislative offices and quickly jammed-up the lines to the elevators. Then again, what would you expect with 2,000 folk hurrying to make it to the scheduled visits? The mood, though, was... eh... well, tremendous and contagious (take it from me and the HRC).

I tagged along as a number of people walked into the office of NYS Assemblyperson Barbara S. Lifton. She represents the 125th Assembly District upstate New York (Cortland and Tompkins counties) and expressed support for all three bills.

But, proving that not all legislative visits are all boring and dry, instead of sharing our personal stories to convince a legislator to vote on our behalf, Lifton turned the table and shared some of her personal reasons for backing LGBT rights.

Fighting back tears, she spoke movingly of her brother, who passed away from AIDS, and of his partner, who she called "My brother in law". She also said that she had initially supported civil marriage rights for same-sex couples but had ultimately come around to support full marriage equality. Ultimately, she said, words do matter and 'marriage' is a word that conveys not only the rights and responsibilities granted by the state to a couple who loves each other, but also the recognition and celebration of a couple's commitment before the law, society and family. She said that she wished her brother could be alive when marriage equality eventually reaches New York State because he and his partner should not have deserved anything less but equal rights.

In other words, she was great.

MY favorite encounter of the whole day was an unscheduled run-in with Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.

I was in the State Senate wing waiting for an elevator to take me back down when the doors opened and - lo-and-behold - there he was. Actually, it took me by surprise, since I assumed he might stay away from his office on E&J Day.

He stared at me intently, with the same mistrustful stare he gave me at an anti-gay rally that took place last September (right), and I just looked back at him and smiled sweetly.

No words were exchanged and we each went our separate ways, but I was just greatly enjoying the thought of thousands of us in the building and the Senator having to just grin and bear it.

At noon, it was rally time. Here is the great Alan Van Capelle, ED of the Pride Agenda, being interviewed with ralliers in the back-ground on what turned to be a scorcher of an April day (I believe temperatures reached the 90's). At one point the crowd spontaneously burst into a Spanish-language chant of Si se puede! Si se puede! Si se puede! Echoes, probably, of the sounds of the Obama presidential campaign rather than those of Latino farmworker rights and immigration rights rallies.

A number of religious leaders from different denominations spoke in support of equal rights. I saw only two anti-gay protesters (click here and here) who were soundly booed and, in one case, driven out of the park by a group of young gay people of color queer folk (there was an amazing number of queer youth of color at Equality and Justice this year).

There were also a couple of personal encounters that I truly appreciated: At the rally, I was approached by a young Latino guy who pointed at me and asked "Hey, aren't you a blogger?" I was totally surprised and embarrassed! He was, I believe, from Rochester, and said he was a frequent reader and loved the blog. I felt honored.

And, after an early afternoon People of Color caucus, a young woman of Colombian descent approached me and asked for advice on how to handle the coming out process with her parents. I was so touched and I hope the advice I gave her truly helps her deal with what she described as a difficult situation. From what she shared, despite the difficult situation, I have a feeling that things will turn out OK. I wish her the best.

After another set of legislative visits in the afternoon, everyone made their way back to the buses, trains and automobiles. I had been on the early morning bus from Queens but, during the day, had ran into my friend Pauline Park, and she later told me that one of her friends had offered both of us a ride home.

It turned out that Pauline's friend was a man who identifies himself as a cross-dresser. I have a few transgender friends, including Pauline, but I can't say that I am too familiar with cross-dressing men who might identify as straight. One of the first things he told me was that I was glad I was coming along because if the conversation got boring we could certainly talk football with no small attempt at macho bluster. He was great, actually, and a hoot and a half. He also had distinctive male facial characteristics which made 'passing' as a woman almost impossible. Which explained the surprised looks and outright derisive laughter I saw and heard when we made a couple of rest stops. It was all very Transamerican-ish, if I may say.

The funny thing was that, as we were driving, Pauline noticed a truck next to us with a certain word written on its side. Lucky for us, we actually caught up to the truck at a truck stop / rest area spot. And, well, how could we not take this picture? That's Pauline next to the truck. A perfect end to this years LGBT Equality and Justice Day.

One final word: I just love the Pride Agenda and thank them for inviting me to cover the event. Most importantly I was in awe of the way they pulled this year's event off considering the huge number of participants and making sure that things ran well. Just an amazing bunch of folks.

More photos of LGBT E&J Day here.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mexico: Homophobic cell-phone store ad

Oh, lookie-here! Guess what Guanabee's unearthed:

In this regional spot from Northern Mexico for a cell phone dealer called Ahorro Cel, a woman receives a call from someone asking to speak to her, “maricon,” or faggot, son. To which she replies, “He’s no faggot!” To which her son, who has popped out of the adjoining room in drag, applying blush, replies in his queeniest whine, “Yes I am, mah!” Then the announcer says something about expecting the unexpected from Ahorro Cel. And then there’s a gay little person because all adds about Mexicans must feature a little person.
Oh. Joy.

A commenter at Guanabee says that it's an old spot that has been making the rounds online. Guanabee ads:
We suppose we shouldn’t be surprised, but we are taken aback by the fact that they could use the word “maricon” on television let alone that a brand would want to associate themselves with such bigotry. Even in Mexico. But, then again, this ad is from Sonora which is in the northern part of Mexico which is kind of like saying it’s in Alabama. (Or California.) It has a decidedly machista/homophobic culture. So, if anyone in the world was going to get away with it, it was these people.

Monday, April 20, 2009

NYS Latinos support marriage equality by overwhelming margins, say two polls

There are indications that support for marriage equality in New York State might be at a tipping point with one poll saying that a clear majority of registered voters support Governor David Paterson's marriage equality bill.

A Siena poll of 624 registered voters found that 53% of those polled supported Governor David Paterson's push for a marriage equality bill, while 39% opposed it.

A SurveyUSA poll of 500 registered voters sponsored by WABC-TV had a 49% to 44% margin of support.

Both polls have a relatively small pool of surveyed voters so take it with a grain of salt (remember those polls in California that indicated that Prop. 8 would not pass?) but a comment left at the FiveThirtyEight blog made me take a second look at the numbers.

Note to Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr. and Luis Tellez: Among registered voters in both polls, Latinos in New York State support marriage equality by an overwhelming margin.

The Siena poll puts Latino support at 57% to 31% (a difference of 26 percentage points) while the SurveyUSA poll puts it at 53% to 38% (a difference of 15 percentage points).

I am struck not only by the fact that in both polls Latino support for the bill is not only higher than that of whites but that the negative numbers are so low.

There might be a couple of explanations for these striking numbers. The number of Latinos polled might be low enough to skew these margins one way or the other or my unscientific perception that Latinos are more open to supporting LGBT rights is actually being backed by the polling.

The low negative numbers also seem to back my perception that, at least in New York State, views about marriage equality among Latinos has not been shaped by the rantings of people like Rev. Diaz. But, unlike in California, New York State has yet to see a concerted anti-LGBT media effort to pull up opposition to LGBT rights among Latinos. It also, if the numbers reflect reality, that there is an opportunity here to be proactive as LGBT advocates and organizers and to work with Latino leaders to make sure that anti-LGBT interests don't shape the message before we do [Image credit: FiveThirtyEight].


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pedro Julio outwits NOM Board Member in Spanish-language TV debate about marriage equality in NY

Have you seen this ad? It was produced by an anti-gay organization called the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in the wake of the recent marriage equality victories in Iowa and Vermont.

Reaction from the gays since it was released on April 7th has generally gone from shock and fear that the tropes used (the imagery and language about diversity, inclusion and change) might be effective; to a realization that perhaps there was some overreaction to the ad; to outright laughter at its portentiousness; which seems to have culminated with a number of online spoofs (the best one is here) and today's OpEd column by Frank Rich in the New York Times ("The Bigot's Last Hurrah").

Or perhaps you also saw that, on Thursday, New York State Governor David Paterson introduced a marriage equality bill.

Of course, there was some virulenty homophobic reaction to the announcement from the usual suspect: The Pentecostal minister - and State Senator - Ruben Diaz, Sr. He certainly was all over the press and media - happy as a peacock for all the attention he was getting.

So you would probably think that if a NOM Board Member spoke to media about the bill, everyone would be all a-twitter about how NOM's Gathering Storm might have arrived in New York.

And it did (quietly):

The two clips above are from Friday's edition of the weekly Spanish-language political show "Pura Politica" on Time Warner Cable's NY1 Noticias (CLICK on video to open larger YouTube window and read my full translation of the exchange). It features a debate between Pedro Julio Serrano from the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and Luis Tellez from The Witherspoon Institute, as moderated by political reporter Juan Manuel Benitez.

Mr. Tellez also happens to be one of five members of NOM's Board of Directors.

So, while Rev. Diaz was huffing-and-puffing and grabbing everyone's attention, here was NOM's first media foray after the Paterson announcement: No big flashy display and no attention-whoring; just an attempt to speak directly to Latinos in their language. In other words, a similar under-the-radar strategy that foes of marriage equality in California used with minority communities in their successful defeat of Prop. 8

Luckily, Mr. Tellez met more than his match in Pedro Julio. I might be a bit biased since PJ is among my closest friends, but I thought he destroyed Mr. Tellez arguments.

It's clear, as the debate begins, that Mr. Tellez is trying to avoid a strictly religious argument to make it seem as if there is no religious bias in his claims and that his concern is only about the 'institution' of marriage, regardless or religious belief. In responding to a question about the church's role in defining marriage he actually says the following:
I cannot speak for the church - but it seems to me that the role of the church is to back, or... what is already known... er... the institution that has already existed which precedes... which precedes!... all societies that we have known.
And, yet, by debate's end, after his arguments have been destroyed, he reacts in frustration and plays the victim card as he addresses Pedro Julio, claiming that it is his religious beliefs that make him a victim:'s so good that you gave me your business card because, upon leaving this place, I can assure you that I will receive 'hate mail' and you won't, won't... won't receive any 'hate mail'. Why? Because those who think as we do, as you said, due to religious education or for facts that we have from common sense, which is still a majority of people in this country, we will... we are attacked. They say we are 'bigots'. NO, we aren't 'bigots'! I have tremendous respect for all the homosexuals.
The best part, though, is that he briefly falls on his own sword. Mr. Benitez. who does a good job of being even-handed by grilling Pedro Julio on why the word "marriage" and why now, asks Mr. Tellez the following question:
As Pedro Julio says there are many children who already live with same-sex couples. Don't they have the right to the same benefits and protections held by children who grow up among heterosexual couples who are married?
Mr. Tellez responds:
Of course, it's clear that all children should have the same rights.
So here we have one of the five NOM Board Members saying that he agrees that all children, regardless of whether they are being raised by same-sex couples or heterosexual partners, should have equal rights. He also goes to acknowledge that adoption by gays is better than a kid not being adopted by anyone.

And the key thing about this exchange, if you remember California's unsuccessful "No on Prop. 8" campaign, is that here we have NOM jumping at the gates to talk about the rights of children (since it worked so well to turn voters against marriage equality in California), but, in this instance you have someone who is willing to take on the lies about a kid being worse off if they are being raised by same-sex partners head on and winning the debate.

Yes, I still remember this ad:

...and the fact that all the "No on Prop. 8" folk did mediawise to counter it was to hire the ENGLISH-language Ugly Betty cast (ugh!).

One final thought: As NOM's Mr. Tellez cries victimization, and says that Pedro Julio doesn't know the half of it, my blood boiled. He would probably have avoided bringing the victimization card if he'd known that, as the first openly gay person to have sought political office in Puerto Rico, Pedro Julio received many a death threat. So much for Mr. Tellez certainty that Pedro Julio has never been and will never be the recipient of 'hate mail' or worse.


NOM.nom apparently likes Tellez' abismal performance. They posted the Spanish-language version of the interview on Facebook (see screen capture, right) but not the ones with my English-language translation.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gov. Paterson announces marriage equality bill, Rev. Diaz throws a hissy-fit

It was as crowded a news conference as I've seen in quite a while. Thursday morning, New York State Governor David A. Paterson announced that he would introduce a bill to grant same-sex couples marriage equality. Yes, I know that Paterson's star has fallen quite a bit in political circles, but I was once again struck by his humility, humor and grace in explaining why he was introducing the bill now and not at a later date. This man who came to be governor due to unforeseen and extraordinary circumstances. This man who was handed a dysfunctional legislature and has struggled to pull it together. And yet, a man who stood by principle and kept his word in introducing this bill.

As for the press conference, it was wondrous in more ways than one.

For one thing, people who just hours earlier were criticising the governor for his renewed push for marriage equality were standing next to him, and legislators who would not have been caught a LGBT rights event just five years ago, were elbowing each other to stand behind Paterson for the photo op.

For another, it was striking that here was the state's first African-American governor making such a bold push for marriage equality, when often minorities are the first to be blamed as not being gay-friendly or supportive of LGBT rights. It also didn't escape me that among the people standing behind him were the first person of Asian descent to be elected to the City Council. John C. Liu, former councilmember Bill Perkins; and Latino US Representative José E. Serrano. A powerful visual, for those attuned to these things, that minorities are not monolithically homophobic as they are sometimes painted to be.

I bring this up because it is at times like these when local media go ga-ga over the homophobic rantings of a certain Pentecostal minister (and State Senator) named Rubén Diaz, Sr. He certainly makes good copy and - unfortunately - he has managed to find himself in a position where his one vote could deny equal rights to hundreds of New Yorkers.

And, like clockwork, there he was on Thursday morning, holding an "emergency meeting" of the New York Hispanic Clergy Association (more like a "Look at me! Look at me!" meeting, if you ask me).

As widely reported, Diaz used the media attention to bash Paterson and say that he would be organizing a series of Sunday mass activities in the month of May leading to a rally of thousands in opposition of the marriage bill. He also said he'd be calling for Governor Paterson to step down (so much for separation of church and state).

Given the Pastor's penchant for running his mouth off, it's not surprising that plans for the rally seemed vague, at best. But he has pulled one such rally in the past when 5,000 people showed up outside the Bronx Courthouse building.

Still, I remain unconvinced that the Reverend reaches much more than a fringe element even in Latino communities and believe that money, time and effort countering his rants and rallies would be better spent highlighting the support of people like José E. Serrano and finding allies among Republican Senate members to counter the anti-gay votes of a few homophobic Democrats.

Having said that, it is clear that calls to his office from LGBT rights proponents in recent months have gotten under his skin. From an interview he did on Thursday with New York 1 Noticias:
DIAZ: By picketing my office, by calling my office, by sending investigators, by calling me 'homophobic', by calling me - eh - whatever you want, by calling me personal names, they will never get me to change my view. There is no way.

The only way that they will be able to get homosexual marriage: That more Democratic senators reach the Senate, and then my vote will not be necessary - and Governor Paterson is not helping out in that respect.
By the way, the guy responding on behalf of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force? My great friend, Pedro Julio Serrano. He rocks! I'll be writing a bit more about him in my following post.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

A gatherng of Latin American LGBT advocates in Los Angeles

A bunch of Colombians and a Brazilian (L to R: Germán Humberto Rincón Perfetti, Lucas Paoli Itabothany, Andrés Duque, Mauricio Albarracín, José Fernando Serrano Amaya and - in front - Alejandra Azurero and Marcela Sánchez)

It's been a month since I attended the "Global Arc of Justice: Sexual Orientation Law Around the World" conference at UCLA's School of Law, and I am still thrilled at having been there. The conference, organized on an annual basis by The Williams Institute and the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association brings together the leading international legal advocates working on LGBT rights.

And, certainly, there was a virtual who's who among the top legal LGBT advocates in the United States, which included Freedom to Marry's Evan Wolfson; former International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission ED Paula Ettelbrick; Scott Long, Director of the LGBT Division at Human Rights Watch; Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights; Julie Dorf, Director of the Council for Global Equality; and Nan Hunter, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, among others.

But what was truly unique about the conference was that, for the first time ever, the focus was on Latin America. This meant that there was just as stellar a gathering of LGBT rights advocates from the region as those from the US, including a few friends who I had not seen in years, and people I had heard about but never met before.

Among the people I got to meet was Judge Karen Atala from Chile (left). In 2004, in a case that made international news, Judge Atala lost custody of three daughters from a previous marriage when Chile's Supreme Court ruled that her current relationship with a woman was not in the children's interest. The case is currently on appeal before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and several US LGBT and human rights organizations have filed an amicus brief in her support.

Then there was Tamara Adrian Hérnandez (pictured right, next to José Ramón Merentes Corréa of Venezuela's Unión Afirmativa who I also greatly admire). Ms. Adrian is a firebrand attorney and law professor from Venezuela whose work has shaped the inclusion of LGBT rights language in the Ecuadorian and Bolivian constitutions, even as her own government has resisted them.

Also present: Olga Orraca-Paredes, one of the leading LGBT rights activists from Puerto Rico, founder of the Lesbian Creative Workshop and one of the organizers of the annual LGBT pride parades in San Juan, who I hadn't seen in almost a decade. It was surreal to be able to share a couple of breakfasts with Olga and to share thoughts on Latino LGBT organizing after all these years.

Here, Olga is standing next to another of my heroes, Susel Paredes Piqué (right), an attorney who founded Perú's LGBT Legal Association.

Recently, I wrote about a transgender sex worker in Tarapoto, Perú, being beaten up and humiliated on national television. Well, Susel and her organization are among those providing support to the victim, and I was glad to have an opportunity to talk to her about the case and to find out that the woman was receiving good legal advice and supportive services.

Which brings us to transgender Argentinian expatriate Mónica León (who currently lives in France), and Peruvian transgender activist Belissa Andía Perez (pictured below).

Both are subjects of documentaries exposing the harshness of living life as transgender advocates in their respective countries. And it was particularly moving to watch each film after having hung out with them for a couple of days and getting to know them.

In "En El Fuego" Ms. Perez (right), Transgender Secretariat to the ILGA Executive Board and founder of the trans-right organization Claveles Rojos in Peru, speaks about the long path to being accepted by her family and her own struggle to figure out what it means to be a transgender person in Peru (Claveles Rojos is the lead agency providing support to the Tarapoto victim).

In the amazing "Hotel Gondolín", Ms. León (above, left) is shown taking control over an abandoned apartment building inhabited by transgender sex workers. She institutes a series of unorthodox 'house rules' meant to decrease drug-addiction and improve their living environment (i.e. demanding huge 'rent' penalties for those caught taking drugs), and also organizes them to lobby the Buenos Aires City Council for a law that will decrease police persecution of sex-workers by deregulating certain areas of the city. Wherever you stand on the issue of decriminalizing prostitution, it is amazing to see this woman's efforts to improve the life of such a marginalized community.

I also met the other Andrés at the conference, Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte from Chile, and we got along famously (that's the two Andreses on the left).

I believe he is still spreading rumors in Chile about my non-religious upbringing and the Chinese Revolution coloring books that I used to paint as a kid.

Last year, along with South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Iranian Queer Organization, Andrés was one of the recipients last year of the prestigious Felipa de Souza award given by IGLHRC for global LGBT advocacy.

He was recognized as the founder of Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad - the first non-governmental transgender rights organization in his country - and for his groundbreaking work on trans rights issues in one of the most socially conservative countries in South America.

But wait! There is more!

Colombia Diversa was in the house! Which meant that I had the opportunity to see my good friends Marcela Sánchez, Germán Humberto Rincón Perfetti, Mauricio Albarracín and attorney Alejandra Azurero (see top pic). They, of course, were part of the team who build the strategy that resulted in the series of rulings by the Colombian Constitutional Court granting most of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual married partners to same-sex couples.

The four, along with José Fernando Serrano, did a presentation on the advances in Colombia which was attended perhaps by fifteen, maybe twenty people, tops. And yet, as I looked at these young advocates I couldn't help but to feel awe.

In every single respect they - and the folk I have described above - are the Evan Wolfsons, Shannon Minters and Paula Ettelbricks of Latin America. On some areas, they have been able to bring more advances in LGBT rights in their home countries than some of the best advocates in the United States (not so much in other areas). So forgive Germán for standing up at a closing-day Prop. 8 panel - rather dramatically - to take his turn in criticising the failed California "No on Prop. 8" strategy from a Colombian point of view (with the helpful assistance of a woofy translator).

As for woofyness, Argentinian Supreme Court Justice Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni? OMG! (Down boys, he was at the conference as an ally).

And I have certainly only mentioned just a sampling of the conference and not given nearly a complete overview of how great it was! I must thank, though, David B. Cruz from USC and Brad Sears from The Williams Institute (as well as Saúl Sarabia from UCLA Law School) for putting together this amazing and historic gathering.

The Williams Institute actually has pdf files which summarize the daily happenings during the conference here, here and here. They also have posted photos here.

My personal photo album can be found here.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

One Day Equals...

On Tuesday, April 28, hundreds of New Yorkers will be making their way to the state capital, Albany, to demand LGBT Equality & Justice. In this, what promises to be a pivotal year in the fight for marriage equality in the state, the Empire State Pride Agenda hopes to show strength in numbers by topping last year's attendance of 1,100 participants. The registration deadline is near so please register now! They even provide busing for folk who register but don't have transportation so please consider attending.

Although the lobby-day focuses on much more than marriage equality, advocacy on marriage rights have gained a certain immediacy with reports yesterday that Governor David Paterson intends to re-introduce legislation to legalize marriage rights for same-sex couples.

As with Prop. 8 in California and, it's great to see independent initiatives rise-up in support. The "One Day Equals" campaign, which is not affiliated with Pride Agenda, simply came from a desire by three individuals to pool their resources, time and effort to raise awareness about this year's LGBT Equality & Justice Day.

As Joe Liebman writes to me:
The campaign is called One Day Equals. Drawing parallels between the march on Albany and historical events like the Storming of the Bastille, the Boston Tea Party and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, ads all end with the same message: ONE DAY CAN CHANGE THE COURSE OF HISTORY. One day equals us all one day becoming equals.

The Pride Agenda, in the meantime, also has it's own video out:

So, if you have the time, please consider donating one day of your life for LGBT equal rights by registering now.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Rally in NYC tomorrow! Marriage equality in VT!

Last week it was Iowa's Supreme Court allowing same-sex couples the right to marry.

Today it was the Vermont legislature that shockingly and wonderfully defeated their Governor's veto of a bill granting equal marriage rights to Vermonters by an overwhelming vote (becoming the first state in the country to grant such rights through a legislative process and the fourth state that currently allows same-sex couples to marry in the US including Massachusetts, Connecticut and, of course, Iowa).

So what are we New Yorkers to do? Rally! Again! In support! Of course!

Last week, Civil Rights Front invited you to celebrate the victory in Iowa on Friday (Joe.My.God has got the goods here). Now they have been joined by Marriage Equality New York, The Power and The Wedding Party in urging you to rally TOMORROW WEDNESDAY APRIL 8TH in honor of the Vermont victory at the south side of Union Square from 6:30pm to 7:30pm.

In the meantime, Gay City News is reporting today that New York and New Jersey LGBT rights leaders Alan Van Capelle and Steven Goldstein are stepping up their calls to action for marriage equality in each state

In a statement from the Empire State Pride Agenda sent earlier today, Van Capelle stated that he was "embarrassed" for New York State and urged the state legislature not to be left behind:
We hope that our State Senate in New York will now look at three of the states that surround New York—Massachusetts, Connecticut and now Vermont—and realize that we are falling behind. Governor Paterson, Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand, every statewide official, the New York State Assembly, and a majority of New Yorkers already support passing a bill that would provide same-sex couples with the 1,324 rights and protections that come with a New York State marriage license.
His New Jersey counterpart, Steven Goldstein, Director of Garden State Equality, also expressed "embarrassment" and went a step further, stating that the legislative win in Vermont meant the end for arguments that 'civil unions' were the same as marriage rights for same sex couples:

Today’s enactment of a marriage equality law in Vermont marks the official end of the failed civil union era in America. Civil union laws now join the Edsel, New Coke and 8-Track Tapes in the dustbin of history’s failed inventions.

New Jersey’s separate and unequal civil union law is an abject embarrassment to the nearly nine million people who live in our progressive state. Vermont, the state that invented civil unions in 2000, passed a marriage equality law today because legislators have seen that civil unions did work – and will never work – to provide equality as marriage would.

Vermont understands, and so does the clear majority of New Jerseyans who support marriage equality:

Civil unions are to equality what AIG bonuses are to corporate integrity.

The time to act is now.

OMG! I love Steve Goldstein press releases!! Edson? New Coke?! 8-track Tapes!!! YES!!!

And I also love Karen Pike's photography, which is where I got the image above from today's dramatic events in VT. For the complete gallery go here.


Friday, April 03, 2009

Update: My brother, Iowa, Vermont and marriage equality

I won't write much about the tremendous marriage equality victory today in Iowa or yesterday's vote by the Vermont House of Representatives to pass a marriage equality bill. Other sites have better analysis and information than I would be able to offer. But I will share a personal anecdote and also tell you how you can make the Vermont vote stick in light of the state governor's threat to veto marriage equality this Monday.

Iowa: My brother Gabriel (right), who lives in Iowa City, called me this evening to give me an up to the minute report on a celebratory rally taking place downtown Iowa City this evening. He was at a restaurant sitting near a wide window and was watching dozens of gay and lesbian Iowans walk by holding hands and carrying signs on the way to the rally. He even spotted some co-workers and said he was glad for them.

No biggie, just a brother speaking to a brother. But that's why I love my family. They are always there with me - and celebrate these LGBT rights victories with me - in a way that makes me so grateful for having the parents and the brothers that I have.

BTW, blogger Andrew Sullivan predicted that Iowa might go this way at last Sunday's "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC. His exact words?
Vermont's legislature has just overwhelmingly voted to have marriage rights for gay couples, but the big future shock will be Iowa, where we will have marriage rights.
Vermont: Which brings us to VT. Andrew's 'overwhelmingly' comment means that the Vermont House of Representatives voted in favor of marriage equality by a margin of 95-52. A HUGE margin except that it falls five votes short of the 2/3rds majority needed to avoid a governor's veto that could come as soon as Monday!

But WAIT!! There is something you can do tonight and over the weekend! You can e-mail VT legislature to ask them to override the veto. Please do because marriage equality in VT may be only still in play if you take action between now and Monday.

Again, if you would like to see Vermont join Iowa, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in granting equal rights to same sex couples, please click on the previous link.

And, if you have some time on your hands, please head over to this video which has some incredibly moving testimony from last night's VT House debate on the marriage bill.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

NYC rally on Vermont and Iowa same-sex marriage decisions

Because California and New York are not the only states that matter when it comes to the ongoing battle to insure that same-sex couples have the right to marry, it's good to point out that there are imminent decisions from Vemont and Iowa on the issue.

In Vermont, the state Senate already approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and today it's the state House's turn. As I write, the Burlington Free Press is livestreaming the House floor debates (here) and a vote that could potentially grant same-sex Vermonters the right to marry might come tonight.

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas has vowed to veto it if it reaches his desk but a 2/3rds majority vote of support for the bill would make it veto-proof.

In the meantime, tomorrow is Iowa's turn as that state's Supreme Court will be releasing its decision on same-sex marriages. If the Iowa Supreme Court votes in favor of same-sex marriage, it will make Iowa the first Midwest state to approve same-sex marriages

New York City rally (Friday, April 3, 2009): Regardless of which side the Vermont legislature or the Iowa Supreme Court fall upon, a New York City rally is being organized in response to be held tomorrow at Union Square (gathering on the South Side). It will be held from 6:30pm to 7:30pm.

The rally is being organized by a direct group called Civil Rights Front which is described as "an all inclusive, direct action group working towards marriage equality and full civil rights for the LGBTQ community."

Recently, they incorporated members of the local chapter of Join the Impact, which was the leading force behind the national rallies that followed the Prop. 8 vote in California. The groups decided to join forces earlier this month. They are calling for your support by showing up tomorrow and passing the information to others.

For information on Civil Rights Front, on tomorrow's rally or on future actions, please visit the following:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Farandula: "Leave Elvis Crespo alone!!!"

Just when you thought the Chris Crocker "Leave Britney Alone" meme was done and kaput, here comes the Elvis Crespo version.

Who is Elvis Crespo? If you need to ask, you probably won't find this funny at all (and perhaps a bit confusing as well). But if you are familiar with "Suavemente", and allegations that Crespo got caught - ehem - pleasuring himself on a plane, you'll laugh your ass off.

Interestingly, Elvis Crespo himself has posted a YouTube video denying most details of the accusation - except the part about the main deed in question. Not that pleasuring yourself is a bad thing at all but finding Elvis Crespo pleasuring himself next to you on a plane? EEEEEEWWWWW!! If only Continental served food.