Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A much needed victory!

The New York State Senate approved the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) last night in a 58-3 vote.  Governor Paterson has already indicated that he will sign this bill into law.  it will take effect on July 1, 2012.  It's notable that this bill is the first in state history to include protections for gender identity.  The bill also includes “actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.

An amendment to add cyber bullying was defeated.  Republicans pushed for the amendment claiming it was more inclusive and makes the bill better.  “If we look at this honestly, we should support this amendment because it’s all-inclusive,” Sen. John DeFrancisco.  The law covers actions that happen on school property only.  Since there are a number of important related issues to cyber bullying that would not have been addressed by the bill as written, I think it's a good thing it wasn't added.  The issue is complex enough to require a separate bill. 

The three no votes all came from Republican party members: John DeFrancisco (District 50), George Maziarz (District 62) and Dale Volker (District 59).  My senator, Sen. Cathy Young, voted yes which gives me hope that she will give GENDA a fair shake when it comes back to the Senate (someday).  The amazing thing is that Ruben Diaz, the perennial Senate homo/transphobe, voted yes.  I suspect he saw the bill would be passed anyway and didn't want to be on the losing side, especially in an election year.  The bill was passed in the state Assembly 9 times already and this is the first year the Senate has acted on it, having been blocked from coming to the floor until now.  “Shameful,” Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat who shepherded the bill through his chamber, texted from the Senate balcony. “For nine years we passed this bill and the Republicans did nothing.”

It IS shameful that it took this long to get such an important bill passed.  It's equally shameful that the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) is still in the Senate's dead zone, after being killed in the Judicial committee two weeks ago.  Will we have to wait 6 more years for that to pass?  I certainly hope not.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The view from the back burner

I was looking through the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) website this morning and was struck by the general dearth of coverage there of the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the fight to make it law.  I noted the paucity of coverage and was considering a blog post about it when I saw that Kat Rose, on the ENDAblog, noticed the same thing and beat me to it.

What she showed is more proof, as if it were really needed, that GENDA always was, and apparently always will be, so far on the back on the rearmost ESPA burner that the danger of its being pushed off the back of the stove is as real as the danger of my being unemployed for the next decade or so - until I hit retirement age, if I survive that long -  since my civil rights protections still haven't been passed into law.

 To give credit where it’s due, ESPA has done work for GENDA and the trans community in New York. They sponsored many trans people, including me, for their Equality and Justice lobbying days in Albany and have at least one trans person, a trans man, on their payroll to be the point person for organizing around this issue. The problem I have relates not to the work they’ve already done, work that I’m grateful for, but how their priorities stack up and, as the ENDAblog post shows, their priorities simply do not place much importance on the gender variant gay, lesbian, straight and bisexual trans people in New York.

I figure ESPA to be in the same mold as the HRC, run primarily by and for the well to do white gay men of the state who will always make certain their priorities are given the greatest attention, “collateral damage” be damned. They haven’t figured out yet that pushing employment and housing protections for gender variant people would ultimately give them greater resources to fight for their issues, which so many trans people support but cannot contribute to because they are too wrapped up in scratching out their own survival in a state that still considers them third class citizens.

I’m going to look at more trans centered organizations, probably NYAGRA (the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy), to push more aggressively in the face of ESPA failures in this regard. I’ve lost hope that ESPA can ever get the job done.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I guess we still don't count around here

From the New York State Legislature:

S2406-A DUANE Same as Uni. A 5710-A Gottfried (MS)
Executive Law
TITLE....Prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression and includes offenses regarding gender identity or expression under the hate crimes statute

01/20/10 PRINT NUMBER 2406A

The supporters of prejudicial discrimination have won again. I'm not politically savvy enough to be able to dope out the ramifications but it sure seems the trans community has been left by the wayside once again, another year will go by without adequate civil rights protections, another year of gender variant people in New York State being legally fired, harassed and denied services in the public sphere.

I don't have any of the details but I do know there was optimism as late as Sunday, at the Buffalo Pride Festival, coming from some local politically active trans people. The bill was supposed to have had enough votes to get through this committee and eventually into the full Senate. This committee was chosen because the Investigations and Government Operations committee that was holding up the bill didn't have the votes to pass it. From the Albany Times Union, Capitol Confidential blog:

The GENDA bill, which would prohibit discrimination based on how people express their gender or sexual identity, failed by at 12-11 vote in the chamber’s judiciary committee.

This means it will not advance to the floor, and it will be difficult to do so now. Sen. Tom Duane, the bill’s sponsor, called the chamber a “homophobic cesspool.” The vote came after pressure from the Conservative Party to vote against it.

To say I'm disappointed is an understatement. I feel disappointed, sad and, most of all, angry that we still can't get these basic protections passed in New York State. They're passing gender identity inclusive laws in Utah, fer cryin' out loud! A support group I belong to, the Transgender Couples of Western New York, signed up over 100 people at the Pride festival on Sunday, all of whom were asked to sign to support GENDA. The grass roots say it's past due that this should be achieved. I'll have to agree with Senator Duane, the state senate IS a homophobic and transphobic cesspool. The state Assembly has passed GENDA for three years in a row. Not one of those Assembly persons who voted yes suffered any negative political fallout, that I know of.

Each and every Republican member of the committee voted against the bill and were joined by that infamous "religious" homo/transphobe, Rev. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx who is a Democrat but one has to wonder why. The committee voted as follows:

NYS Senate Judiciary Committee
Chair: Sen. John L. Sampson, D-District 19, YES

Yes Eric Adams, (D, WF) 20th Senate District
No John J. Bonacic, (R, C, IP) 42nd Senate District
Yes Neil D. Breslin, (D, IP, WF) 46th Senate District
No John A. DeFrancisco, (R, C, IP) 50th Senate District
No Ruben Diaz, (D) 32nd Senate District
Yes Martin Malavé Dilan, (D) 17th Senate District
Yes Pedro Espada, Jr., (D) 33rd Senate District
Yes Ruth Hassell-Thompson, (D, WF) 36th Senate District
Yes Jeffrey D. Klein, (D, WF) 34th Senate District
No Andrew J Lanza, (R) 24th Senate District
No Kenneth P. LaValle, (R, C, IP) 1st Senate District
No Vincent L. Leibell, (R) 40th Senate District
No George D. Maziarz, (R) 62nd Senate District
No Michael F. Nozzolio, (R, C, IP) 54th Senate District
Yes George Onorato, (D) 12th Senate District
Yes Bill Perkins, (D) 30th Senate District
No Michael H. Ranzenhofer, (R, C, IP) 61st Senate District
No Stephen M. Saland, (R) 41st Senate District
Yes Diane J. Savino, (D, IP, WF) 23rd Senate District
Yes Eric T. Schneiderman, (D, WF) 31st Senate District
No Dale M. Volker, (R) 59th Senate District
No George Winner, (R, C, Ind) 53rd Senate District

Dr Jillian Weiss described the committee's action at the Bilerico Project. Her take was that the proponents of the bill were poorly prepared for the objections of its opponents, namely, the "bathroom" meme. Why is that? Why didn't they have the real and effective counters to the lie that this bill would endanger people in public restrooms, locker rooms and the like? Where was the lobbying effort this year? Oh yeah, there wasn't one - the Empire State Pride Agenda decided not to have one. I guess they thought it was a better idea to save those resources to fight against the senators that voted against marriage equality. It's up to our community to give our political representatives the tools to counter the lies of the opposition. Obviously we failed to do so. I guess when you already have your own rights protections in place, doing the hard work to protect other people's rights - promises notwithstanding - is just too damned difficult.

Those who voted against this bill MUST be made to pay a political price for their callous disregard for the survival of gender variant people in New York. Senator Lanza, from Staten Island, especially, for changing his vote. Will the Empire State Pride Agenda work to exact that price? Probably not, or not too hard, if the past is any indication. GENDA has always been their red headed stepchild. The same senators who voted no also voted against marriage equality however, so maybe they'll be targeted on that basis. And in the mean time? More fear, more stress, more poverty, more crime and more egregious harm for the gender variant gay, lesbian, straight and bisexual people in most of New York State.

Update: Video of todays meeting is up.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Time to push, and HARD!

My friend, Patti J. from Buffalo, sent this to me and I'd like to pass it on as far and wide as I can. If you live in New York State, please take 5 minutes to call your state senator and tell them to support S2406, the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act.

GENDA is moving in the Senate – call your Senator NOW!

You are receiving this email because the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) is on the Senate Judiciary Committee's agenda for tomorrow morning (Tuesday, June 8, 2010). This vital civil rights bill will make it illegal to discriminate against transgender New Yorkers in areas like employment, housing and public accommodations, and expand hate crimes protections to explicitly include gender identity and expression. Your Senator is a member of the Judiciary Committee and has the power to pass GENDA out of the committee and onto the Senate floor for a full vote.

We need you to get on the phone and call your Senator at their Albany office RIGHT NOW and tell them that you want them to pass GENDA in the Judiciary Committee. It is vital that they hear from you TODAY.

Here's how to make your call:

1. Enter your address to find your State Senator's Albany phone number here.
2. Tell your Senator: "I support the GENDA bill (S.2406). Please pass GENDA from the Judiciary Committee onto the floor for a full Senate vote."
Your voice is crucial! Make your call now!

The gender variant gay, lesbian, straight and bi people of New York State have been waiting for this far too long already. We have never come this close with this bill until now. We need to get this one passed, please donate some of your time to make that call. Thank you!