For immediate release
SDWNY Statement on President Obama's Support for Marriage Equality
" Today, Stonewall Democrats of Western New York are proud to add our voice to the chorus praising President Obama's historic announcement that he supports Marriage Equality. The first sitting president to support the freedom to marry for all Americans, President Obama has cemented his place in history as a groundbreaking leader for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Already a tremendous part of the civil rights movement in so many ways, President Obama understands what it means for LGBT Americans to lack the civil rights and protections brought by the segregation of marriage rights-- and has the courage to lead on the issue, and make change.
We could not be more proud of our President. This is what leadership looks like, this is change. This is the kind of leadership which comforts and changes hearts and minds, and inspires the American people and our representatives to work together to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, and bring full LGBT Marriage Equality to all fifty states. The President's announcement also boldly sets the presidential election this November. Americans will have a clear choice: will we continue the change and real progress brought by President Obama's leadership, or will we elect Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who is opposed to equal rights and protections for all American families? When President Obama is reelected, SDWNY knows this President will build on his accomplishments for our community such as ending the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and the work his administration has done on issues such as hospital visitation. With President Obama's leadership, and our WNY pro-equality federal delegation of Reps. Brian Higgins, Kathy Hochul and Louise Slaughter and Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, we will see finished what we have started here in New York with full LGBT equality being legislated in Congress for these United States.
We thank President Obama for his courage, sincerity and dedication in doing what is right, and supporting the civil rights of all American people. "
With Sen. Kennedy, June '11, Albany, NY
Dear Stonewall Democrat or Ally,
2011 has been a year unlike no other. As this year draws to a close, it is so easy to look back and reflect upon the victories which were won, the history which we all had a hand in making. We passed Marriage Equality. We went to the White House. We repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the United Nations in adamant advocacy of the Obama administration for the humanity and civil rights of LGBTQ people the world over. And in 2012, we will go on to do more.
I remember back in January, as we began another year of working for Marriage Equality in New York. The outlook was bleak. While we'd had huge victories like Sen. Tim Kennedy defeating his anti-equality opponents in both the Democratic Primary and General Elections, we lost supporters such as former Sen. Antoine Thompson to a candidate who ran for election opposing equal marriage rights. Our new governor was Andrew Cuomo, but our State Senate was in Republican hands. But none of that was going to deter us or stop us from lobbying and pushing for the legislation that would make equal our state's marriage contract laws.
Months later, in June, after countless car rides back and forth to Albany, multiple lobby bus trips with Buffalo contingents for the Empire State Pride Agenda and Marriage Equality New York lobby and education days, victory came. After gathering literally thousands of letters in support of Marriage from Western New Yorkers and beyond (I remember one woman we stopped outside at the Lady Gaga concert earlier this year, who lived in West Virginia but wanted her sister to have marriage equality here in NY so badly she wrote a letter to her sister's Senator Patrick Gallivan); after Kitty Lambert, Cheryle Rudd, myself and other members endured hate group the National Organization for Marriage in the state legislature's halls as we counter-protested in the days leading up to the vote-- where we were literally cursed at, spat upon and harassed-- after months of waiting, a vote was held. In the Assembly, our champions like Sam Hoyt and Danny O' Donnell delivered a passed bill. In the Senate, a late night vote made Buffalo proud with Sen. Kennedy's vote as promised, and Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti changing his stance with his vote, and joining the ranks of the brave few in the Republican Party who will stand up to the party's discriminatory platforms-- and he stood up for New York families, voting for Marriage Equality.
A historic victory, winning Marriage Equality in New York was the work of so many generations of Stonewall Democrats and WNY LGBTQ civil rights advocates; so enormously well-deserved, far long overdue. Because of the work of each and every one of you, New Yorkers are now free to marry who they love. Sadly, our federal marriage laws remain in need of equality, with the Defense of Marriage Act remaining law. But the act of New York State legislating Marriage Equality, the most populous state yet to do so, we have won one of the most important battles we will along the road to full LGBTQ equality. I thank each and every one of you who helped, came to Albany or a district office to lobby with us, who wrote or signed a letter and all who-- most importantly-- made their voices heard. Without you, we would not have Marriage in New York.
Fresh off the victory in New York, I had the distinct honor of being invited to the White House for President Obama's LGBT Pride Month Celebration. To attend a national gathering of LGBT rights activists, with Kitty Lambert-Rudd, was an incredible thing. Because of the incredible work SDWNY and all our WNY civil rights activists had done, we were recognized and respected by the President who has done more for LGBTQ rights than any other. It was the experience of a life-time to take you all with us to the White House and President Obama, in such a place of American history, and bring attention to LGBTQ rights issues and grassroots activism.
And September brought the desperately long-awaited repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy-- finally, allowing our best and bravest women and men who are lesbian and gay to serve their country the way America deserves: openly, honestly and with complete integrity.
Tragically, with these best of times came the worst. With September came another heartbreak of losing a youth to suicide because of bullying. Every time we lose a youth to this senseless problem is a tragedy hard to comprehend-- and each time it hurts more. In Jamey Rodemeyer's case, the pain was local and so personal; having made a video for the "It Gets Better" campaign himself, Jamey had so many of the strengths needed to overcome the bullying of his peers, society and beyond-- and in the end, it was not enough. Each LGBTQ youth who finds no recourse but to take away the gifts of their owns lives feels, to me, such a personal failure, a failure of society. Because there's nothing that we can do, and so much we, others and society could have done. All we can do, in my opinion, is to continue to live openly and proudly-- advocating for the full equality of our community to become a reality in the world, and live as an example for our youth that it got better for us-- and it will get better for them, too.
Electorally, 2011 brought more of the highest victories and the most heartbreaking losses. In Erie County, SDWNY ally Mark Poloncarz soundly defeated incumbent Republican, anti-LGBTQ county Chris Collins, who had refused to add LGBT persons to the county's Equal Employment Opportunity policy, based on the fact it include non-discrimination of gender identity and expression. SDWNY member Greg Rabb was reelected as Jamestown City Council President, and Erie County Legislator Lynn Marinelli, long-time SDWNY ally member, was also reelected. With sad hearts and bittersweet emotions, we said goodbye to Assemblymember Sam Hoyt, when he accepted a position with Gov. Cuomo's administration this summer. Sam Hoyt's service for his community and particularly to the LGBTQ community was staunch and fierce, and we will forever be grateful for his advocacy, and his essential help in the passage of Marriage Equality. Fortunately, we now have Assemblymember Sean Ryan, also an ally member, who is firmly supportive on all issues of LGBTQ equality.
I would also like to thank outgoing Erie County Legislature Majority Leader Maria Whyte for her distinguished service in the legislature. During her terms as legislator, it was always nothing but an absolute pleasure to work with Legislator Whyte and her staff member Melissa Cummings on a wide-variety of progressive issues, not the least of which was LGBTQ equality. Always, Maria Whyte has been the absolute golden standard of a public servant. Maria's dedication to issues of what is right is unfailing. Always there, always right and always a fighter-- that is Maria Whyte. We congratulate Maria on her close, well and hard-fought campaign for Erie County Clerk-- and look forward to the great things which will come from her public service in years to come.
In closing, 2011 has been a year when so much work for the civil rights movement culminated in amazing victories. But there remains so much work to be done. To have full LGBTQ equality, we must-- as soon as possible-- pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act to allow that no New Yorker be discriminated against because of gender identity or expression. Federally, we must repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and pass a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as the Uniting American Families Act, to bring equality to our immigration laws. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all you do to make Stonewall Democrats what we are-- and for all you will do to continue our good work. Every phone call you make, every door you knock on, every event you attend and every letter you sign brings us a step closer to GENDA, closer to the day when all Americans will be equal under the law. We have come so far, and will go the rest of the distance-- with your help. I thank you for being a Stonewall Democrat.
Yours in equality,
PS: If you have not already done so, you may sign a GENDA support letter on our website, www.SDWNY.org. Thank you!
Jamey Rodemeyer memorial after vigil, September 2011
Kitty and Cheryle Lambert-Rudd become the first same-sex couple to marry in NYS; July 2011.
SDWNY at the White House; June 2011.
SDWNY would like to thank City of Buffalo Clerk Gerald Chwalinski and his staff in the clerk's office for being open for business on Sunday, July 24, 2011, to process marriage licenses, and perform marriages, the first day it was legal in New York State. SDWNY would also like to thank attorney Michael Kuzma for coming in at the spur of the moment, to provide much needed notary services! With NYS Supreme Court Judges on standby providing waivers for the 24 required period between the obtaining of a marriage license and the act of marriage itself, Chwalinski performed numerous wedding ceremonies within City Council Chambers.
SDWNY was on hand to offer complimentary bottles of wine to the over two dozen happy couples who either received marriage licenses or were married that day! The wine was a gift from the Carl and Sophie Baj family. Congratulations to all the beautiful, happy couples!
This week, SDWNY VP Kitty Lambert and her wife to be, Cheryle Rudd, were featured in the New York Times, in an article on New York same-gender couples who will be marrying when the new laws take effect this weekend. READ: NYT "Same-Sex N.Y. Couples of Up to 41 Years Who Now Plan to Marry
"READ: NYT "After a Long Wait, Finally Tying the Knot in New York
SDWNY is thrilled that our Vice-President of Community Affairs Kitty Lambert and her partner, Cheryle Rudd, may become the very first legal New York State same-gender marriage later this month. Congratulations, Kitty and Cheryle!“The Buffalo News: “Gay wedding in Falls may be state’s first”
Early July 24, with hundreds, if not thousands, of people on hand, Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd will stand next to Niagara Falls in hopes of becoming the first gay couple married in New York State.
“Prince William and Kate didn’t have as many people at their wedding as we will,” Lambert, one of the region’s most prominent gay rights activists, said Tuesday. “It’s going to be amazing. We’ve joked that we’re inviting 1,800 of our closest friends.”
And yes, Lambert and Rudd promise to be the first couple legally married under the state’s historic marriage equality law, which takes effect that day.
And what a party they have planned.
The celebration will start with a reception on Goat Island at 7 p.m. July 23 and end with a civil marriage ceremony on Luna Island shortly after midnight. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster will officiate.
“Everyone is invited,” Lambert said. “We’re doing this because of what it will do for Western New York, and media is coming from all over the world to see it.”
For Rudd, the wedding marks the end of a more-than-eight-year wait.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “We’re finally getting the same rights as everyone else. Nobody can take that away from us anymore.”
Lambert and Rudd are not the only ones with out-of-the-ordinary wedding stories.
Rick Crogan, head of the Main Street Business & Professional Association in Niagara Falls, finds himself in the unusual position of having to choose between politicians competing to officiate at his upcoming wedding. He said both politicians — Niagara Falls City Judges Diane L. Vitello and Angelo J. Morinello—believe strongly in the rights of gays to marry.
“They’re both arguing over who’s going to do it,” he said. “It got to the point where Judge Vitello’s mother grabbed my cheeks and said, ‘You have to let Diane do it.’ ”
Buffalo’s Unitarian Universalist Church is going out of its way to publicize its elation over the new law and its eagerness to marry gay couples once it takes effect.
“We’re going to throw the doors open,” said the Rev. Joel Miller. “These are people we’ve been taking care of for a long time, so its nice to see the state finally doing that, too.”
Miller said the church has hosted about 50 gay weddings since he arrived there 11 years ago and would love to see each of those couples return now that their marriages are recognized by the state.
For Lambert and Rudd, the new law marks the end of a struggle that often tested their personal relationship.
And for those who know them, it’s more than appropriate that they will be among the first, if not the first, to wed under New York’s new law.
As president of OUTspoken for Equality, a local gay rights group, Lambert was instrumental is getting the State Legislature to allow gays to marry.
“There’s a certain justice to that,” Dyster said of the wedding. “And I’m honored that she thought of Niagara Falls and agreed to shine the spotlight on Niagara Falls.”
To pave the way for the big event, Lambert persuaded a local municipal clerk to be on hand to sign their marriage license after midnight and a local State Supreme Court judge to waive the normal 24-hour waiting period, which will put them a day ahead of most couples.
She also called on former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, a Buffalo Democrat and longtime friend, for help in securing Goat Island for the party.
“There may be other weddings that day,” Hoyt said, “but I don’t think there will be another wedding as well-attended or as happy and enthusiastic as this one.”
As she often does these days, Lambert is quick to mention the people who made her big day come to be, and State Sen. Mark Grisanti is often at the top of her very long list.
Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican, cast one of the deciding votes in the law’s passage.
“I’m happy for them,” he said Tuesday. “It’s important that they can finally realize that they count and that they matter to New York State.”
Lambert said the wedding is open to the public and suggested the guest list will include a fair number of VIPs. She stopped short of naming names, but when asked about reports that comedian Ellen De- Generes might come, she confirmed the possibility.
“All I can tell you is that she was invited,” Lambert said. “Wow, wouldn’t that be something if she came.”
It is with tremendous joy that Stonewall Democrats of Western New York celebrates the passage of the Marriage Equality Act by the NYS Legislature. At long last, New York will cease to segregate civil marriage rights based on gender. Families throughout our state today have been validated by our government, and given the civil rights once denied them. When same-gender marriages begin in New York, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer (LGBTQ) New Yorkers will have access to the state rights that come with a civil marriage.
We commend our Governor Andrew Cuomo for his soaring leadership on this issue. Gov. Cuomo made good on his promise of bringing marriage equality to our great state, and without his non-partisan leadership, we would not have this great victory today.
I thank—from the bottom of my heart—SDWNY Vice-President of Community Affairs and Outspoken for Equality President Kitty Lambert for her powerhouse leadership on Marriage Equality. For the last several years, Kitty and her partner Cheryl Rudd have worked their lives for this issue. Kitty Lambert has been the voice of the Marriage Equality movement in WNY, and all fair-minded New Yorkers will forever be grateful for her role in Marriage Equality’s passage.
New York State could not have gained this victory for the civil rights movement without the ceaseless work and unfailing dedication of our Stonewall Democrats of Western New York members, allies and incredible community of local, grassroots advocates. It is because of each letter you signed or delivered, each phone call you made, each lobby visit you attended and each neighbor you talked about equality that we now have Marriage Equality in NYS. Thank you to the many SDWNY members and activists who have, throughout the years, worked so passionately for this issue. We thank Carol Speser, community leader and co-founder of SDWNY, for her astounding leadership and advocacy for Marriage Equality. We thank SDWNY Vice-President for Political Affairs Bruce Kogan for his heart and endless drive to work for equality. We thank SDWNY Secretary Thomas Peglowski and Treasurer Ronald Groth. We thank James Bragg, Rita Sanchez, Paul Morgan, Mark Nowak, Jamestown City Council President Gregg Rabb, Ari Moore, Thomas Gleed, Madeline Davis, Wendy Smiley, Andrew Randazzo, Terry Purdue, Edwin Martinez, Douglas Charles, Sean Cooney, Cynthia Appleton, Christopher Sasiadek, Michael James, Gail Wojtowicz, former NYS Sen. Antoine Thompson, Timothy Maggio, Melissa Breckenridge and Jennifer Diagostino, among many, many others.
SDWNY extends a special commendation to NYS Assemblymember Sam Hoyt. Throughout his career in the Assembly, Sam Hoyt has fiercely championed the civil rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. Always, Sam Hoyt has stood with the LGBTQ community. Marriage Equality is now law in NY because of his great work and advocacy.
We also proudly extend our utmost gratitude to NYS Senator Timothy Kennedy. A pro-equality voice where previously we’d had none, Sen. Kennedy has proven to be among the most-staunch supporters of LGBTQ rights in the state legislature. As Andrew Cuomo did with his own election, Sen. Kennedy has made good on his promise of Marriage Equality, and SDWNY could not be more proud.
We also extend our immense gratitude to Senator Mark Grisanti. With his vote in favor of Marriage Equality, Sen. Grisanti displayed a true profile in courage by standing up for what is right. Throughout our lobbying and working with Sen. Grisanti, he has proven himself to be a man of great wisdom and heart—a Republican willing to listen to the needs of our community, open to learning and, in the end, champion the cause of civil rights. Our state and country would be a much better place if we had more heroic legislators like Sen. Mark Grisanti.
And we thank our WNY pro-equality Democratic legislators who helped pass Marriage Equality with their votes and advocacy—Assemblymembers Crystal People-Stokes and Mark Schroeder.
We thank all our outstanding pro-equality elected officials: Congress members Rep. Higgins, Hochul and Slaughter; Erie County Legislators Majority Leader Maria Whyte and Lynn Marinelli; Buffalo Common Councilmembers David Rivera, Michael LoCurto and Michael Kearns. And we thank the Erie County Democratic Committee for their support—Chairman Len Lenihan, Executive Director Jeremy Zellner and Melissa Bochenski, as well as the Erie County Young Democrats.
It is with this great happiness that we look to the next chapter of our involvement in the civil rights movement: the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. We remain saddened that our state has not extended protections from discrimination to our transgender sisters and brothers, and has not outlawed discrimination—for employment, for housing—based on an individual’s real or perceived gender identity and expression. We celebrate the victory of Marriage Equality today, and look forward to the day when every single LGBTQ American is afforded all her or his equal, civil rights.
Today, Gov. Cuomo continued to make good on his promise of passing Marriage Equality for New York State, by introducing the Marriage Equality Act to the NYS Senate and Assembly (READ the bill here.)
Yesterday, Sens. Carl Kruger, Joseph Addabbo and Shirley Huntley announced their support for civil rights, bringing the entire Senate Democratic conference to support equality, with only one exception. And in the last 24 hours, two Senate Republicans have announced their support of the bill. We commend Sens. Jim Alesi and Roy McDonald for having the courage to be the first of their Republican conference to take a stand for civil rights.
Now is the time to keep acting! We need to keep the pressure on Albany to pass the bill and make Marriage Equality law. Today, WNY Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) announced he was now undecided, rather than opposed. After months of lobbying by SDWNY, Outspoken for Equality and local open and affirming clergy, Sen. Grisanti is now undecided. Call him now at 716-854-8705 and let him know the true, incredible support civil marriage rights have in his district!
Sen. Pat Gallivan (R-Elma) has been another one of SDWNY and Outspoken’s focuses during the past several months. He also needs to keep hearing the incredible support Marriage Equality has in his district! Call him now at 716-656-8544!
We have never been closer to Marriage Equality! We would not be here if it were not for the hard, dedicated work of you and all our Stonewall Democrats.
If Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) is your senator, call him at 716-826-2683 and thank him for the support he has for Marriage Equality becoming law!
Also, please remember to thank our pro-equality Assemblymembers who have championed Marriage Equality, such as Assemblymember Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo) 716-885-9630 at and Assemblymember Mark Schroeder (D-Buffalo) at 716-826-0152.
Today also brought fantastic news for the GENDA legislation, as the bill passed the Assembly once again. Please, in your phone calls for Marriage, thank the Assembly for passing GENDA and urge the Senate to follow suit!
Photo: Bryan Ball, Artist of piece: Kitty Lambert
Now is an exciting time for LGBTQ civil rights in New York State. Following last year’s election, when the Republicans regained control of the State Senate, many LGBTQ and allied New Yorkers were disappointed as to the future of Marriage Equality and Gender Expression Non-Discrimination in New York.
But things are looking better. Governor Cuomo has been an incredible, staunch advocate for advancing—and passing—both the Marriage and GENDA bills in the state legislature. High profile national and state LGBTQ advocacy groups have formed a united voice in New Yorkers United for Marriage, and they are beginning an advertising campaign, which hopes to culminate with a vote on the Marriage bill in the legislature during the very near future.
Here in Western New York, SDWNY and Outspoken for Equality has, with our great community of advocates, been actively lobbying all our state senators—and having an open dialog regarding the issues of Marriage and Gender Expression Non-Discrimination. As part of our lobbying, we have been running our Marriage letter campaign, and recently begun our GENDA letter campaign, focusing on the State Senate. If you have been one of the hundreds who have signed one of our different form letters or taken the time to write a handwritten note to your legislators, we thank you. If you have not, or are willing to go the extra step and gather more signatures and notes for equality, we encourage you to download the letters below, print them out, gather signatures and send them into your State Senator. However, SDWNY is ready and able to help with mailing, and we encourage you to contact us (by email or calling 716-541-5557) should you wish us to come pick up your letters and notes and mail them to our Senators.
All information collected on this joint letter project between SDWNY and Outspoken for Equality is stored in an individual database. Each Senator receives a letter, and the database will only be used when it is know the legislation is coming to a vote in the Senate. You will receive an email and phone call from Outspoken for Equality, letting you know a vote is coming and asking you to put a phone call into your Senator’s office asking him or her to support this legislation.
I write regarding the civil rights movement, and how it continues with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community’s road to equality. Now is an important time for civil rights, and this past year saw triumphs that furthered our community’s equality.
In the City of Buffalo, our Common Council took action to protect its citizens. It passed legislation establishing a domestic partnership registry for the city and extending partner benefits to city employees in same-gender partnerships. This is an important action, as New York State currently discriminates in more than 1,000 rights and protections that a civil marriage provides to couples and families based on gender.
Marriage equality is needed legislation and will afford families the protections of hospital visitation, health insurance and home protection. Marriage equality will provide a civil right to citizens, and infringe on no one’s right to practice or preach the teaching of any religious dogma.
Our State Legislature also passed the Dignity for All Students Act, which protects all of our children from bullying in schools. While the LGBTQ community is ever-advancing in terms of acceptance, we must never neglect the plight of countless LGBTQ children who grow up in intolerant environments. As the recent highly publicized suicides of young LGBTQ individuals tragically highlighted, there is a crucial need for children to be protected from the forces of hate.
Each one of us who believes in the cause of the civil rights movement, alongside our elected officials, must make it known publicly and in our private lives that individual identity is not something to be hated, and that even in the worst of situations, it gets better and there is a life and world out there for our children that will embrace, accept and treat them equally under the law.
Also, in Washington, Congress finally repealed the military’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” ensuring that no one in our military is denied the opportunity to serve our country honestly and with dignity.
However, much work remains. There are no federal protections from employment discrimination for LGBTQ Americans, and our state has yet to pass anti-discrimination legislation for individuals based on gender identity and expression. If our government is truly concerned about jobs, Congress will pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and New York will pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, to allow that no one faces unjust discrimination from employment. Equally important is the need for LGBTQ-inclusive immigration reform, as no American should ever have to choose between family and country.
I look forward to the day when Martin Luther King’s dream is fully realized, and every woman and man is treated equally in our communities and under the law. I have every faith our nation and world will rise to the task.
Bryan Ball is president of Stonewall Democrats of Western New York.
January 05, 2011
Dear Stonewall Democrat, As our year draws to a close with the signing of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010,” by President Obama, which will effectively end our military’s discriminatory prohibition of gays and lesbians serving openly, the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York reflect on a year filled with many historic and hard fought victories on the path to equality. With your continued support, we look forward to continuing our work together in the year ahead. After the New York State Senate’s 2009 defeat of the Marriage Equality bill, our Stonewall Democrats began 2010 with the goal of attaining the equality from our government that had previously been denied to us. This spring, SDWNY worked with the City of Buffalo’s Common Council to pass domestic partnership legislation. After years of lobbying the Buffalo law-making body, SDWNY members testified in front of the council and personally lobbied our lawmakers on the importance of domestic partner legislation. The result was a victory directly attributed to each and every one of you who worked this issue. Because of you, the City of Buffalo has established a city domestic partner registry, and passed legislation which extends domestic partner benefits to all city employees in same-gender domestic partnerships. This year also saw the long-over due passage of the Dignity for All Students Act. This bill was made a reality by the hard work and dedication of our Stonewall members, and by our representatives Assemblymember Sam Hoyt and Senator Antoine Thompson. Because of this act’s passage, all our New York children will be justly protected from bullying in schools. In 2010, SDWNY also participated in Marriage Equality New York’s Lobby Day, when again we directly lobbied our state legislators on the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community. Always, we have been there to educate our legislators. This election cycle brought us the chance to show at the voting booth the power of our pink votes, and what it means to support or not support our families. WNY sent a strong message with the election of Senator Tim Kennedy, our new representative in the 58th Senate District, who will be a pro-equality vote for GENDA and Marriage where we before had a no vote. Equality saw additional Stonewall victories in the past elections with the reelection of Assemblymember Hoyt, one of the LGBTQ community’s fiercest advocates in Albany, the election of our Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and all three of our endorsed New York State Supreme Court Candidates: Judges Eugene Fahey, Hank Nowak and Catherine Nugent-Panepinto. However, with our great victories came unfortunate defeats. We thank, from the bottom of our hearts, our pro-equality, progressive champion Senator Antoine Thompson for his great service to Western New York. SDWNY promises to hold the new Senator accountable for his actions, as we will the Senate’s new Republican leadership. The last year also brought incredible opportunities for SDWNY. This summer, we were honored to have our Stonewall Democrats chapter represented at two national conferences in Washington, D.C. We traveled to the Democratic National Committee’s Day of Pride and the National Stonewall Democrats conference, and met with activists, representatives from other nation-wide Stonewall chapters, and Congressional and White House staffers on issues of bettering our individual chapters, and working with our Congress to pass our legislative priorities. At the Erie County Democratic Committee’s reorganizational meeting this fall, I personally had the opportunity to address about 1,500 Erie County Democratic Committee members on the work of SDWNY, our pro-equality issues, legislation and candidates. This election saw our community increase our representation on the Erie County Democratic Committee, which is a hugely important way to work and advocate for our pro-equality legislators and candidates. As we begin 2011, I look forward to continuing our great and productive work together as Stonewall Democrats. Our organization as we stand now could not be the force we are without the involvement, activism and support of each and every one of our members. I am proud that our membership has increased in terms of numbers and activism this past year, and anticipate our organization to only grow stronger as we work to achieve the goals of the civil rights movement: Gender Expression Non-Discrimination and Marriage Equality in New York State, and Employment Non-Discrimination and the Uniting American Families Act at the federal level. Without you, the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York would not be what we are. I thank you for your support and involvement, and look forward to working together in the year to come. Sincerely,
Bryan BallPresidentStonewall Democrats of Western New York
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