LIVEBLOG: New Yorkers converge upon state capitol to fight for LGBT priorities
April 28, 2009
NOTE FROM CHRIS: Anthony Hayes, HRC's Northeast regional field organizer, hopped to it early this morning to join the swarm of New Yorkers heading up to Albany to take part in Empire State Pride Agenda's lobby day, Equality and Justice Day. As Anthony wrote yesterday, ESPA had over 2,000 people sign up to travel to the state capitol to meet with state legislators on behalf of GENDA, anti-bullying legislation and marriage equality. Buses left from Manhattan at 6 am this morning for the 3-hour ride to Albany and Anthony, who will be reporting to us from the lobby day, sent an update after the activists arrived at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. **We'll be posting additional updates from Anthony on this thread, so keep checking back!** 10:00 AM: The room is packed at the convention center. There are all ages, race and many families here with their children. Our HRC members are sitting with the other members from their Senate District and getting prepped to attend their meeting. The energy is tremendous and contagious. Over 2000 people crammed together to fight for three pieces of legislation: GENDA (S.2406), Dignity for All Students Act (S.1987), and marriage equality (S.4401). We have many religious leaders here discussing why there is no room for discrimination in New York State. We are currently waiting to hear from New York State Senator Tom Duane who introduced the senate version of the marriage bill (S.4401). We are off to an unbelievable start today!
10:25 AM: The mention of Governor Paterson's name brought the packed room to their feet. The crowd cheered for several minutes. He said, "Let Prop 8 be a call to arms!" and the crowd leaped to their feet. "We are all coming together to make sure justice prevails for everyone!" he declared. It is humbling that we have a leader who is so willing to publicly stand with our community about what is right.
11:30 AM: The lines to get through the security checkpoints at the capitol buildings are loooong, but people are being patient and peacefully enduring the wait. While in line, our activists are taking the opportunity to share their stories and meet other people from their districts. In one meeting, almost 20 constituents packed a conference room to meet with Assemblyman Herman Farrell (A.D. 71) who represents upper Manhattan. Assemblyman Farrell remarked that this was the first time he has ever had a meeting where 100% of the people attending lived and voted in his district.
HRC members Lori, her partner Maria, and their four-month-old son Cooper thanked Farrell for his consistent support of equal rights. And they're right: Assemblyman Farrell has been an active and vocal support of the LGBT community long before it was fashionable to support our communities issues. After the meeting Assemblyman Farrell took Lori, Maria, and Cooper into his office to show off pictures of his children and grandchildren. 12:25 PM: Thousands gathered outside the capitol for an equality rally. It was a remarkable setting to see so many people chanting: "What do we want?" "EQUALITY!" "When do we want it?" "NOW!!" The crowd heard from Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle who reminded the crowd that days like today make all the difference. Religious leaders lined the stage in support of passing the legislation we're lobbying for. Today hope is filling the air!
3:30 PM: HRC member Adam Suellentrop got on a bus at 5 AM this morning to come to Albany to lobby his legislators. Adam opened his home to his neighbors at the beginning of the year to host a letter writing party so that his state senator would know that his constituents support marriage equality. Adam just sent me a text telling me that his senator bailed on over 40 of his constituents who had traveled all the way to Albany to talk about marriage equality, GENDA and the Dignity for All Students act. Adam said, "It was an amazing room of diversity. I was proud to be a part of it, and the room was crestfallen that he didn't respect us enough to face us." Adam called me from the hallway outside his office to say that the group consisted of all ages, race, and gender. Some of the voters were transgender, single, married, straight, gay, and homeowners that pay taxes in his district. For the most part, the conversations I have overheard in the halls of Albany have recounted positive meetings. Even if the senator was "not there yet" on marriage, the legislator or a senior staff member honored the meeting. In one meeting I attended with Assemblyman Farrell, he remarked that this was one of the first meetings where 100% of the people present were voters. Even though Adam and the others weren't able to meet directly with their senator, they sent a clear message that the time for equality in New York State is NOW. Their energy and effort to get to Albany today should be admired and replicated by others. Our voices will bring equality to ALL New Yorkers.
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