Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Equality & Justice Day (it's a long one...)


Tuesday, April 28 4:30 am....alarm...... not happy. But I'll tell you what, it was totally worth it! At about 5:15am, I headed out of my apartment in order jump on the UWS bus with the Human Rights Campaign and head right back to Albany [where I had just been for Workshop for Miss New York] for Equality & Justice Day 2009 where we lobbied, rallied, learned and spoke to legislature about Marriage Equality, Dignity for All Students and Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) laws in the State of New York.

Upon arrival, I was thrown into my volunteer position at the information desk. Problem. I had no idea what was going on. I had never been to E&J day. But I smiled and pointed people in the best directions I knew! Governor Patterson welcomed the 2000 people in attendance (record number of pre-registrants) with this speech.

and proceeded to share and motivate ...

He spoke about our goals as a state. Yes, we want to change the law, but ultimately we must change the culture of NY society under the law. We must change how people treat each other. We need dignity and respect, and we need it now. Seriously awesome.

Senator Tom Duane, the first openly gay senator, has carried Marriage Equality, Dignity for All Students, and GENDA bills onto the senate floor. His motto throughout the day was IF. WHEN. NOW. "Marriage" is not IF, it's WHEN, and we demand it NOW. "Dignity." "GENDA." And to top it off, he joked (yet it's so true) about the fact that marriage equality would boost our economy!

Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, sponsor of the Marriage Equality and Dignity bills in the Assembly, emphasized the separation of church and state. In confronting the issue that gay marriage invalidates "marriage," he talked about divorce. Heterosexuals are granted the ability to divorce multiple times, yet homosexuals aren't even given the chance to marry...once?

Assemblyman Richard Godfrey spoke of our inalienable rights as listed in the Constitution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness. "This is about humanity."

After the opening ceremony, we broke off into individual caucus meetings, legislative meetings and a peaceful rally in front of the statehouse. I have to admit, I'm not really a rally kinda gal. But this was wonderful. There were signs promoting equality that were supported by people of different races, religions, AND sexual orientations. There was such a strong straight ally support, of which I was incredibly proud to be a part. The rally was hosted by Alan Cummings (Tony Award Winning Actor) and featured multiple speakers, one of whom I will highlight in an effort to make this post short of repulsively long. Kate Hathaway is a PFLAG mom. She has a 3 children, a son who is gay, and a daughter you may know, Anne. Here's a quick clip of the letter that Anne wrote and Kate read on her behalf.

After the rally, I walked in the bathroom on my way to the PFLAG caucus. Who's there? Kate. Of course (I'm Jo Ellen Buffie's daughter), I say thank you for sharing her story and we have a great conversation in line about Anne, PFLAG, my story, her story, etc. and then the time came: 2 stalls open. You must know: I hate stall-chatting. You know, when people continue conversations in public restrooms?. Well, I gave it up; I stall-chatted with Kate Hathaway. It is so wonderful when people who have a voice, a recognition, yet nothing to gain, speak up. She and her husband were incredibly down to earth. I look forward to seeing them at UES PFLAG meetings and hopefully the PFLAG Gala in the fall where we hope to have Anne as well.

New York is moving forward, and I am so excited to have been a real part of it. I can truly say that I have made a difference on Capitol Hill in New York State. Here's a look at a bit of the day.

"YES. The storm is coming. But you better bet that when it clears, there is going to be a big ol' rainbow!"


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