Friday, May 2, 2008

LGBT Equality and Justice Day 2008

Last Tuesday April 29 was LGBT Equality and Justice Day in Albany. Equality and Justice Day is a chance for LGBT people and allies to lobby their legislators on issues that matter to them. And a couple of us from PPRSR were lucky enough to be able to attend on our own time.

A record 1300 people turned out to rally and talk to their legislators about three main issues. The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) would prohibit harassment of students in school (on all kinds of basises, including sexual orientation and gender identity), change school policies regarding harassment and provide the support that these schools need to live up to the requirements. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) would expand anti-discrimination legislation to include discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression in areas such as housing, employment and education. And last but not least, Marriage Equality is vital to ensuring that same-sex partners have the same rights as opposite-sex couples with regards to taxes, property, medical decisions and more.

NARAL Pro-Choice NY's Kelli Conlin was among the amazing speakers at the rally in front of the legislative building. I was thrilled to see her there because LGBT issues are absolutely a reproductive justice issue. Inequality causes many gay and lesbian couples across the nation to have legal trouble getting access to fertility treatments or adoption, as well as an increased legal risk that should the relationship end, one parent may not have the right to see and/or care for his/her child(ren).

The prejudice and discrimination that many LGBT face is also largely a part of our culture's unhealthy views about sex and gender. Many want to base the law on their belief that same-sex sexual activity or having a transgender identity is morally wrong -- these are unfortunately the same voices who try to prevent women from accessing reproductive health care because of their belief that pre-marital sex is wrong. In short, we are both fighting for the freedom to live our sexual lives authentically and to make safe choices. We're also both looking to create a world where the government does not discriminate on the basis of consensual sexual activity or the choices we make with regards to having or not having families, and where we all have the right to control our bodies and act in our own best interest.

The LGBT movement and the reproductive justice movement are closely intertwined, and it's good to see that being acknowledged more and more! A reproductive justice advocate can of course be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. And those of us who aren't need to start supporting and allying with a movement that also supports human rights.

The good news is that in NY, the tides are turning. The Pride Agenda’s recent poll showed 78% of New Yorkers support GENDA. In 2006, their poll showed that 53% supported full marriage rights, and support has likely increased since then. And it's exciting to note that the day after Equality and Justice Day, GENDA was passed through the assembly’s Government Operations Committee!

For more, check out The Empire State Pride Agenda's website. They have tons of information on LGBT rights in NY -- and give you the information you need to urge your own Senators and Assembly persons to support these three important pieces of legislation.

[Photo via The Agenda blog.]

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