The 2012 regular State Legislative Session has ended and I wanted to report back to you both on our community’s successes and on the challenges ahead as we advocate with our government on the state and local level.
Momentum Builds for GENDA, Work Remains
The Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA), our number-one legislative priority, was passed with bipartisan support by the State Assembly for the fifth time. We are hopeful that the State Senate will recognize the will of nearly 80% of New Yorkers who approve of the measure, and will bring the law to bear statewide. We will continue to work with activists and community leaders statewide to build support for GENDA, which will finally bring equal rights and equal protection to all New Yorkers, regardless of gender identity or expression.
Surrogacy and Cyberbullying
We are closely following a bill introduced by Assemblymember Amy Paulin that would allow surrogacy to be legal in New York State, providing another option for members of our community to start a family in their home state.
Recognizing that technology allows bullying and harassment to extend outside the confines of a school, the Pride Agenda collaborated with advocates and allies in the legislature on the recently-passed cyberbullying bill, which extends the Dignity for All Students Act to explicitly include bullying and harassment through electronic communication.
Our Unique Health Needs, Our Fair Share of Funding
In a tough fiscal year, following a vigorous lobbying effort led by the Pride Agenda, the state budget included level funding at $5.26 million for the New York State LGBT Health and Human Services Network. Administered by the Pride Agenda, the Network is comprised of nearly 60 organizations from all across the state that address the unique needs and disparities faced by the LGBT community. Combined, they care for more than 800,000 New Yorkers statewide, but these organizations rely on the state budget to be able to do so.
It is a victory that we were able to maintain these critical dollars at a time when there were so many cuts to projects across the state.
Holding Steady but Falling Short for Homeless Youth
In addition, the final state budget included funding for shelter beds for runaway and homeless youth that increased slightly by $215,000 to a total of $2.45 million. This figure is significantly below the nearly $5 million included in the 2010-2011 budget for these services. While increased funding is a victory, the funding for runaway and homeless youth—40% of whom are LGBT—is still nowhere near as much as it needs to be.
On the local level, we commend New York City Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council for taking the lead toward restoring funding for runaway and homeless youth in the 2013 city budget.
Providing lifesaving dollars for critical services, the final city and state budgets keep funding consistent with last year and are a victory in these tough times. While we are not gaining shelter beds, at least we are not losing them. We must continue to make the case that every homeless youth should have a place to lay their head.
The Pride Agenda will continue to work with a broad coalition of partners to call on the city and the state for adequate funding to provide shelter for the 3,800 youth who sleep on the streets every night. We acknowledge the tough economic climate, but we must not balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. We have an epidemic – and it's time to do more, not less.
As your watchdog in government, you can count on us to be your eyes and ears on the ground and your voice in the corridors of power.
Interim Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda