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.