Monday, May 23, 2011

Equality + Justice Day

Two years ago, I attended my first Equality + Justice Day with the Empire State Pride Agenda, and it marked my very first lobby day. Since, I have grown more involved, understanding political advocacy and my role in it as a constituent and now as a mini-celebrity. It was then that I first met Kate Hathaway and started to get to know some of the heavy hitters in the fight for marriage equality as well as the other bills and legislation necessary to fight for to achieve true equality. In 2009, I was a volunteer, attempting to give directions in the capitol building and the convention center. Since then, I have competed twice in Albany at the Egg Theatre and the University of Albany for Miss New York, spent much time exploring the capitol, meeting with senators and members of the Assembly and feel like I moreso know my way around. But more importantly, I know my way around a legislative meeting. 

I was fortunate to attend some of our most crucial meetings with board members of the Pride Agenda, including Kate and Jerry Hathaway, led by Pride Agenda’s Executive Director, Ross Levi. We met with Senate Minority Leader Sen. Sampson, joined by Sen. Tom Duane, sponsor of the marriage bill in the Senate, Chief Political Officer of the Republican Party, Sen. Tim Libous, and then members of the board were able to meet with the supportive Governor Cuomo. There was much talk about the math and votes required to pass marriage when presented on the floor after a failed vote last January, with a circular finger-pointing and need for strategic development and stealth “attack.” Also a focus was GENDA, the civil rights bills protecting transgender people and gender expression. On both issues, marriage more than GENDA, New York is pretty much divided along party lines. This just means that your voice is even more important. Senators NEED to hear you say you support the right to marriage for ALL people. They NEED to hear you say “Thank you, you are doing the right thing by voting YES.” They NEED to hear you say, “I am your constituent and I urge you to vote on the side of fairness, respect and equality for all people with a YES vote in these next few weeks.” 


At the rally in front of the statehouse, I was a featured speaker, opening up the rally. It was so neat to look out and see the amount of people there to lobby, from every walk of life, age, race, etc., under this unified movement for equality, and to see it from a different vantage point of the stage rather than the crowd this time around. You never know exactly how impactful you have been because of the walk-around/talk-around of politics, but I am confident that we are being heard, the pot is being stirred, and New York is closer to full equality than ever before. 

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