Last week, Governor Cuomo wrote a letter to the Pride Agenda asserting his "deep commitment" to transgender protections and calling on New York to extend the Human Rights Law to include gender identity and expression. We've been fighting for the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, for 13 years to secure basic civil rights for transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers so that no one is fired from their job or kicked out of their home because of legal and transphobic discrimination.
The Governor's bold announcement adds further momentum to our fight for equality. Nearly 80 percent of polled New Yorkers agree that GENDA should become law, and the bill has earned bipartisan support in the New York State Assembly year after year. With more than one third of the country that already providing these basic civil rights, there's only thing stopping New York from doing the same: The New York State Senate. Senate leaders have consistently refused to bring GENDA to the floor for a vote. That is why we must work together now to make sure we elect a pro-GENDA majority in the Senate this year.
Election season is in full swing and momentum is on our side. We need to ensure the right number of "yes" votes in the Senate and you can do your part to make that happen. See below for five easy ways you can help to make GENDA a reality in 2015.
1. Vote! This may sound simple, and it's easy to feel disenfranchised and dismiss this option, but your vote really does count. Taking the time to pull that lever on Election Day is especially important in some of the tighter races where your vote means helping to secure a candidate who will vote "yes" on GENDA versus one who might not (In 2012, Cecilia Tkaczyk won her Senate seat by just 18 votes. She went on to become a co-sponsor of GENDA. Her opponent was a longtime opponent of GENDA and would not be a vote we could count on). Be sure to mark your calendar for Primary Election Day on September 9 and Election Day on November 4. Click here to learn where your polling station is.
2. Volunteer: Devote one afternoon or evening, or even just a few minutes of your time helping elect a candidate that you believe in and who will help pass GENDA and bring New York State into the 21st Century on civil rights. Whether it's phone banking for an hour after work one night, knocking on doors before election day to remind people to vote, or even just sharing information about pro-equality candidates on your social media channels, your time spent helping the right candidates win will ensure we have the votes we need during the next legislative session.
3. Donate: Some of us may not have the time to volunteer but do have a few dollars to spare to support a pro-LGBT candidate or one who might be in a tight race and need all the support he or she can get to ensure victory (and in turn, a victory for our community when they pass legislation like GENDA). If you're not sure what candidate in particular to support, you can donate to the Pride Agenda's Political Action Committee and we'll make strategic allocations in key races throughout New York State that would help elect a pro-GENDA majority.
4. Spread the word! Thank Governor Cuomo for his strong showing of support and leverage the moment to call out the Senate to do their part and pass GENDA into law in 2015!
5. Share your story: Personal stories are always compelling, and are particularly significant for elected officials. They need to hear concrete examples of the pervasive challenges that are impacting their own constituents because they don't have the protections GENDA would provide. Send your personal story about you or someone you love who is not protected by state law to your elected officials and even to your local media. Get the word out about why they should vote for GENDA. You can also submit your personal story to the Pride Agenda for consideration of publication in our TRANScribe series.
Together we can shape this election season to produce the best possible outcome to position us for success in the 2015 legislative session in New York.