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Also, in Washington, Congress finally repealed the military’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” ensuring that no one in our military is denied the opportunity to serve our country honestly and with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.
June 24, 2010
This past Tuesday, Kitty Lambert—Vice President of Community Affairs and President of Outspoken for Equality—and I had the great fortune to attend the Democratic National Committee’s “Day of Pride.”
The event, held in Washington, D.C., came to us by way of a recommendation from the Erie County Democratic Chair Len Lenihan, recognizing the great work that every one of you does, as Stonewall Democrats and Outspoken for Equality members.
It was an honor to have been chosen to represent our organizations at the federal level during this conference. Kitty and I were invited because of the great work our organizations do, and that great work could not be accomplished without each and every one of you, your dedication and your unyielding commitment to the civil rights movement.
And as many good things often do, the invitation to travel to DC and attend a conference where we could meet with national party leaders and policy makers gave us a limited timeframe to work on finding out how we could get to D.C. We held a fundraiser on Saturday to help defray our travel costs, and were extremely humbled by the support we received. We thank you, so very deeply, with our utmost gratitude for your help and support in making our attendance at this conference possible.
On Tuesday, our “Day of Pride” started promptly at 8:30AM. Somewhat tired from previous day’s (and for some of us night’s) travel, we were eager to jump into what the day would bring. Right away, we were able to network and meet people from LGBT groups across the country. We talked proudly of our members and volunteers and the work they do, and compared notes on how LGBT organizing is done throughout our United States, as well as discussing common problems like Democratic officials who don’t support our civil rights.
And then the speakers got underway. We heard from a diverse, wide-ranging cross-section of LGBT Democratic Party players. Given that our political party is such a big tent, and—shall we say—more willing to agreeing to disagree than other parties, there were some speakers who appeared to just shy away from calling for full civil rights, and seemed to gloss over Marriage Equality. However, when true progressives like Senators Al Franken (D-Minnesota), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) took the stage, we came to see that our party does care about all of our issues. These speakers championed Marriage Equality, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, repealing DOMA and passing ENDA and the Uniting American Families Act.
Perhaps the most reassuring speaker of the morning was Diego Sanchez, a man who works for Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) The first openly transgendered individual working on Capitol Hill, he talked about the concrete plans and strategies already underway for getting the votes to pass urgently needed legislation like ENDA, and gave us a truer view of the dedication which exists in Congress for passing this legislation. It was through speakers like Sanchez, Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Michael Mitchell and Brian Bond, the White House’s Deputy Director for the Office of Public Engagement, that we were able to discuss, first hand, our commitment to legislation such as UAFA, ENDA and ending DADT—and enlist that support from key players in Congress and the administration, who stressed to us their own commitment to seeing this legislation through.
While we were there, we also met with Senator Gillibrand’s office regarding these critical issues, and measures such as Sen. Franken’s Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition on bullying in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassing behavior.
All in all, Kitty and I had a terrific morning discussing these issues and listening to people like DNC Chair Tim Kaine, Executive Director Jen O’Malley-Dillon and others reaffirm our Democratic Party’s commitment to our issues.
We were incredibly moved and inspired to have been chosen to represent all of our absolutely fantastic members and Stonewall Democrats of WNY on a national level, and we thank you all for allowing us the opportunity to participate in this event. With the passing of Dignity for All Students by the State Legislature, it has been a terrific week to motivate us to even further action on the work ahead.
Recent days have been dark ones for pro-equality citizens, as we experienced great disappointment with the recent failure of GENDA in the State Senate. And yet, when I listened to the others who attended the conference, and watched our state legislature vote to defend and protect the dignity of all our children, I felt that hope which I know will get us across the finish line. I know as an organization we have what it will take to ensure we are successful, at all levels. We will continue to work to elect and protect our pro-equality Democrats who have and will go on to do the work needed to advance our rights. The campaign season is already well underway, and I look forward to the reelection of our officials who champion our causes, and new ones like them in seats where their predecessors did not.
With the great leaders and true progressives we have in elected office and throughout our country in grassroots organizations such as our own, we have in place what it will take to pass ENDA, defeat DADT and DOMA, grant us Marriage Equality and pass GENDA in our state. I thank you, and look forward to continuing our great work together.
Stonewall Democrats of Western New
York is the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer Democratic voice in western New York. Our mission is to advocate for the
LGBTQ community within the WNY
area government and the Democratic Party.
We meet the fourth Tuesday of each month at:
3105 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214