Friday, July 17, 2009

NYS Senator Tom Duane at 3am this morning...

One truly hopes that the travesty that was this summer's session in the New York State Senate has a silver lining. Namely that the shame that the circus-like proceedings brought upon the legislative body will result in prompt and drastic changes to the way New York State is governed (not that I am holding my breath, but one does hope).

In the meantime, there is this 22-minute video taken shortly after 3am this morning, in which my long-time hero (and State Senator) Thomas K. Duane lets it rip on the state of HIV/AIDS today as he pitched a bill that would help people with the illness to meet their rent.

It was first picked up by Elizabeth Benjamin over at the New York Daily News, who posted the following video transcript excerpt:
Let me take you back to the early eighties. Visiting friends in hospitals. We'd go in. We'd go in one night, in the morning they'd be dead. I'd bring them food. My family, bring them food. My friends bring someone food. But whoever was in bed would be dead before they could eat it.

We'd leave it - maybe the nurses would take it home. No! They wouldn't eat it! 'Cause it's contaminated. Contaminated! Wouldn't touch it. Wouldn't go into the room. Wearing masks. Gloves! Gowns! Someone gets sick in the afternoon. They'd be dead the next day. Dead! And that went on for months, and then years. Dead! Dead!

You think if you got sick and your friends were dying that I would sit there and do nothing? No. But that's what happened. That's what happened. Every cold. Every virus. Every temperature. I thought I'd be dead, and so did so many people that I knew. Dead! You think you scare me? You think you can make be back off? Nothing scares me.
The bill, one of the last ones to be brought to a vote in the State Senate floor during this spectacularly awful session, was approved by an amazing margin of 52-1, and had former senate Democrat defectors Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada up on their feet and applauding. It still needs Assembly approval before being sent to the governor to sign into law.

Now, I don't usually write about what all the other gay or LGBT blogs are writing about (in part because few cover LGBT Latino issues in English and because others might have a better take than I would on issues such as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or "Hate Crimes"). But I have to say that I was struck by the number of times that I was sent a link to the video today and asked if I could write about it. I was first made aware of it by POZ magazine founder and publisher Sean Strub but, since then, a number of folk have reached out as well. Most of them moved by the speech and alerting me to it.

In less than 24 hours, it's become a rallying cry. Which - without taking away from the powerful message - says a lot about what it takes for folk to listen to anything related to HIV/AIDS nowadays.

But the right people have taken notice and have rightfully picked up on Duane's 3am comments. Among them Andy Towle, The Village Voice's Runnin' Scared, The Albany Times-Union Capitol Confidential, Peter Staley's POZ magazine online blog, Gotham Gazette and Outcome Buffalo.

Let them - and others - carry the voice: AIDS is not over!

Update: Rex Wockner says it better than I did on his post on the video above.
Update 2: Mike Tidmus does as well, in an amazingly moving post.

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