Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Post-Pride odds and ends

As New Yorkers prepare to leave the city en masse for the Independence Day holiday, this blogger recounts a series of events that have dominated the headlines (and his schedule) over the last few days. These include the sudden death of Michael Jackson--and continued onslaught of media coverage surrounding it, the first nice weekend on Fire Island in weeks and a press conference outside the Stonewall Inn yesterday where Congressman Jerrold Nadler and others called for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression into the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition, hundreds of LGBT activists attended a reception at the White House last night hosted by the president and the First Lady. The administration has certainly received a great deal of warranted criticism over the last few weeks for its refusal to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and its unconscionable defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. That said, the mere fact the White House hosted hundreds of LGBT activists sends a powerful message the administration may actually take our community seriously. Let's hope so!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New York Senate adjourns special session without marriage vote

To almost nobody's surprise, the New York State Senate adjourned its latest special session yesterday without voting on the marriage bill. Governor David Paterson announced the proposed legislation was the first item on an ever-growing list of things on which Senators have failed to vote since the coup took place more than two weeks ago. One question that emerged during yesterday's session, however, was the legality of any approved legislation without the state Assembly in session. One source has indicated a vote is possible early next week, but in the meantime, the mess continues...

On a much happier note, the second issue of the Fire Island News hits the beach later today. The weather has, for those of you not in New York, absolutely dreadful over the last couple of weeks. The meteorologists have promised, however, temperatures in the 80s for the next few days with little threat of rain outside of a stray thunderstorm tomorrow. Praise the Lord!

Attached is a clip of the beach somewhere between Davis Park and Water Island I shot a couple of weeks ago. Let's hope both the government in Albany and the weather improve...

video

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Marriage vote unlikely in New York State Senate today

Fiasco is one of many appropriate words to described yesterday's special session of the New York State Senate, but Gov. David Paterson has announced the marriage bill is the first thing on his agenda today when he orders lawmakers back into the chamber.

Activists across the state obviously continue to urge legislators to vote--and pass--the bill, which the state Assembly overwhelmingly supported last month. One Albany insider told Boy in Bushwick it remains possible Senators could vote on the proposed legislation, but they are not compelled to do so. Another source stressed she feels a vote today is very unlikely.

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Marriage vote possible this week in New York State Senate

I am back in Bushwick after a weekend of torrential downpours, perusing for discount designer fashions and partying in a toga, but news of the possible vote on marriage for gays and lesbians in Albany this week continues to flood my inbox.

The State Senate has remained disgracefully deadlocked since Republicans and a handful of dissident Democrats staged a coop two weeks ago over control of the chamber. Governor David Paterson could have intervened to end this nonsense, but only today has he ordered lawmakers to return to Albany on Wednesday for the start of a special legislative session. Paterson has reportedly told the Empire State Pride Agenda the marriage bill remains one of his top priorities.

"New York’s elected officials were put in office to do the people’s business," Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle said in a statement. "Legislators cannot go home without passing marriage equality legislation this month. Our community and our allies expect this to happen."

An Albany source later confirmed this possibility, but it still remains unclear as to whether the bill have enough support--especially among Republicans. The fact remains, however, the abject nonsense that has paralyzed the state Senate for two weeks will have a potentially devastating impact on real New Yorkers across the state. It's time to put aside egos once and for all and complete the people's business.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obama to extend benefits to gay federal workers

As an increasing chorus of LGBT activists continue to criticize the Obama administration over the way it has handled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Defense of Marriage Act and other issues, the White House has announced it plans to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

Some activists remain highly skeptical of the proposal because it reportedly will not extend health benefits, but it is almost certainly a significant baby step forward for those who continue to criticize the commander-in-chief for his arguable failure to adequately uphold the promises he made to LGBT Americans on the campaign trail.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Albany nonsense continues

A weekend reporting on Fire Island and trying in vain to find a rich husband almost insulated me from the unfortunate fact the nonsense in the New York State Senate that has brought everything to a grinding halt continues.

The latest turn in this ridiculous ego-driven saga came yesterday when state Sen. Hiram Monserrate [D-Queens] announced he will return to his party. State Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr., [D-Bronx] was the only self-described Democrat who appeared in the chamber yesterday, but Monserrate's decision to return to the political mouth that (once) fed him essentially guarantees 31 Democrats and 31 Republicans.

Are you keeping score? A state Supreme Court judge continues to debate who will lead the dysfunctional senate, but one source told me late last week the whole situation is "not good news." Indeed, frustration certainly continues to grow.

The Daily News has launched a campaign to not pay legislators until they get back to the business their constituents elected them to do. And Channel 11 anchors Kaity Tong and Jim Watkins made their feelings known after reporter Marvin Scott wrapped up a live shot from Albany. The events of the past week remain a complete and utter disgrace. It's time for legislators to get their shit together, put aside bruised egos and actually pass legislation that directly benefits their constituents.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Espada calls for marriage vote in the New York State Senate

As this humble journalist and others across the state continue to try to figure out what the hell happened in Albany on Monday afternoon, the probable new president pro
tempore just announced he supports a vote on the bill that would extend marriage to same-sex couples.

Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., [D-Bronx] made the announcement during a speech before his colleagues on the Senate floor. One of the main concerns that emerged out of Monday's nonsense is legislators would not vote on the marriage bill. Presumptive former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith [D-Queens] had repeatedly maintained he did not have enough votes to secure its passage. It remains unclear as to whether this fact has changed, but Espada's pledge to bring the proposed legislation to the floor almost certainly comes as a relief to anxious activists across the state.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

GOP regains control of New York State Senate

As if the New York State legislature could not become more dysfunctional, two dissident Democrats joined Republicans who suddenly moved yesterday to topple state Sen. Malcolm Smith [D-Queens] as Senate Majority Leader.

State Sens. Pedro Espada, Jr. [D-Bronx] and Hiram Monserrate [D-Queens] caucused with their GOP colleagues across the aisle in what can almost certainly be described as a coup that resulted in state Sen. Dean Skelos [R-Rockville Centre] becoming Senate Majority Leader. Espada, who remains under investigation for alleged campaign irregularities and other allegations that stem from a non-profit he ran, and Monserrate, who was indicted earlier this year in connection with an alleged assault against his girlfriend, reportedly received backing from Upstate billionaire Tom Golisano. The fact remains, however, the coup immediately threw Albany into chaos as Democrats scrambled to make sense of the situation.

“This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic Majority," Smith's office said in a statement. "Nothing has changed, Senator Malcolm A. Smith remains the duly elected Temporary President and Majority Leader. The real Senate Majority is anxious to get back to governing, and will take immediate steps to get us back to work.”

Governor David Paterson blasted the coup, and the Working Families Party issued a statement that "strongly" condemned Espada and Monserrate's actions.

Yesterday's events certainly confirm New York's dubious distinction as having the country's most dysfunctional legislature. It continues to be an immense embarrassment to those who arguably naively look to Albany to advance the people's agenda--and one of the most contentious issues that remains before legislators is a bill to extend marriage to same-sex couples.

Smith has repeatedly indicated he did not have enough support among his members to ensure its passage in the state Senate. Skelos said he would allow his colleagues to "vote their conscience." It remains more uncertain than ever whether the proposed legislation will even go before the state Senate. Let's hope these lawmakers actually put aside their own politically-motivated and woefully selfish agenda and actually do something on behalf of New Yorkers who have been disenfranchised for far too long. At this point, however, that may a woefully naive proposition.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Union Leader once again opines against marriage for same-sex couples

I'm honestly surprised it took the Union Leader two days to officially speak out against the bill Gov. John Lynch signed into law on Wednesday that extends marriage to same-sex couples, but opine it did in today's editorial.

Publisher Joe McQuaid wrote an editorial published on the rag's front page titled "Dishonesty in Concord." He opined "New Hampshire this week has witnessed intellectual and political dishonesty from Gov. John Lynch (whom he has dubbed Gov. Flynch) and his liberal Democratic legislative allies that is downright breathtaking." McQuaid further criticized the highly popular governor's thoughts about those who campaigned against the bill.

"Lynch is also intellectually dishonest in his implication that people opposed gay marriages solely because they didn't want traditional churches to be forced to participate," he said.

Really?

McQuaid also challenged New Hampshire residents to take action against Lynch and those who supported the bill at the polls next year.

"If they get away with it, Granite State voters will have only themselves to blame," he said.

The fact more than 50 percent of New Hampshire residents support marriage for same-sex couples indicates McQuaid and his newspaper's conservative perspective are increasingly out-of-touch with the state on which they claim to represent. One has come to expect these ridiculous arguments from a publication that continues to grab straws to justify its desperate attempt to block the inevitable change that continues to transform the Granite State for the better. Its increasing irrelevance, however, speaks for itself.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Hampshire House passes marriage bill

The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 198-176 today to approve an amended bill that would extend marriage to same-sex couples.

Lawmakers narrowly vetoed the bill late last month after they could not agree upon language contained within it that would have clarified exemptions for religious institutions. Governor John Lynch maintained he would sign the bill only if the proposed legislation specifically spelled out these provisions.

"Today is a victory for all the people of New Hampshire, whom I believe in our independent way, want [fairness] for all," he said before he signed the bill into law. "That is truly the New Hampshire way."

I have repeatedly said I never thought growing-up in Manchester I would see the day Concord lawmakers would extend marriage (or even civil unions for that matter) to gay and lesbian Granite Staters. I am happy legislators in my home state have proven me wrong. Today is a great day for the state of New Hampshire. And lawmakers have once again stayed true to the "Live Free or Die" spirit that remains an integral part of the state's collective consciousness.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dr. Jill Biden headlines GLSEN awards

Hours after the White House released a proclamation to commemorate LGBT Pride month, Dr. Jill Biden headlined the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Educators Network's annual Respect Awards ceremony at Gotham Hall last night.

She spoke about the anti-LGBT bullying many students in this country continue to face. Biden also reaffirmed what she described as the White House's continued commitment to "ensure every child has a safe school." And she further pointed out the administration had appointed GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings to head the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.

"Each child, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves an education," Biden said.

Biden received a standing ovation from those gathered inside Gotham Hall. GLSEN executive director Dr. Eliza Byard even described the Second Lady as "a true advocate for all American children," but simmering criticisms the White House has not done enough to adequately advocate on behalf of LGBT rights came to the surface.

Mitchell Gold criticized both the President and Vice President for opposing marriage for same-sex couples on religious grounds. His comments generated an enthusiastic applause among many attendees. And the comments clearly highlight the growing angst among a growing number of activists within the LGBT movement over how they feel the administration has failed to adequately address these issues.

An argument can be made the White House must devote its resources to tackle the ongoing recession, an exit strategy in Iraq and a way forward to combat Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. A converse argument is the administration can do more than issue a Presidential proclamation at the start of LGBT Pride month. The Second Lady's remarks to GLSEN supporters are certainly encouraging, but it is arguable time the administration steps up to the plate and prove it has earned the respect--and most importantly support of the LGBT Americans who helped to vote it into office last November.