A Queerty Exclusive!

NYC Council Hopeful Pledges Gay Support

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Maria Passannante Derr, a community activist who is running for City Council out of NYC District 3, offers her thoughts on gay pride, civil rights in New York and how she would use her powers for homo good – after the jump, of course…

New York’s Gay Pride month concluded on June 29th with the beloved Gay Pride March down Fifth Avenue into Greenwich Village, attracting thousands of people committed to celebrating LGBT pride and advancing LGBT and transgender causes. In spite of the damp weather, attendance at the parade was overwhelming, and it included such notable political figures as City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson, who was rightfully greeted as a hero for his recent commitment to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. The theme “Live. Love. Be” was felt by all in attendance; I was proud to march with The Ali Forney Center and students from The Harvey Milk School and celebrate the recent victories in California and across the United States on behalf of equality and justice for every American.

There was much to celebrate in New York this year. The New York State Assembly made great strides in advancing gay and transgender rights during June with its passage of Marriage Equality legislation and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). New York is now only the second state in the country whose legislature has taken significant steps to legalize gay marriage. Legislative action is imperative, since the NY Court of Appeals ruled in 2006 that same-sex marriage is not guaranteed by the state constitution. Unlike the decisions made by the highest courts in Massachusetts and California–both of which ruled that banning same-sex marriage is prohibited by law–New York must address this civil rights violation through its elected officials.

The Assembly also supported enhancing the rights of transgendered New Yorkers with GENDA, which had 74 co-sponsors and passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 108-34. This legislation moves beyond the limitations of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) being considered by Congress, which excludes protections based on gender identity and expression. Outlawing discrimination against LGBT and transgender people in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, and other essential areas is necessary in protecting all New Yorkers from unfair treatment in everyday circumstances.

In addition to the progress made by the Assembly, Governor Paterson’s recent directive ensures that same-sex unions will benefit from over 1,300 legal rights and privileges previously granted by state agencies only to heterosexual couples. While numerous cities and counties throughout the state–including Buffalo and New York City–had previously recognized marriages created in other jurisdictions, New York is currently the only state to wholly recognize marriages by same-sex couples legally performed in other states and countries.

Despite significant and groundbreaking progress by the State Assembly, these measures have stalled in the Republican-led Senate and are unlikely to become law unless there is a greater movement by New Yorkers to force this body into action. Seventy-eight percent of registered voters in New York support passing an anti-discrimination bill and a majority support Governor Paterson’s decision to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. I believe the Senate must adhere to the will of the citizens of New York and pass this legislation as soon as possible.

I will continue the fight for LGBT rights under the law which my uncle, Assemblyman William Passannante, passionately advocated for in the early 1971 when he introduced the Nation’s first statewide gay rights bill to reverse discriminatory laws aimed at the LGBT population. New York is ripe for change and could be the next state to enact comprehensive reforms to guarantee equal rights for its gay and transgender population. New York may even become the third state in the nation to legally allow civil marriage for all its citizens. I look forward to fighting for the equality of every single New Yorker when I am elected to serve as City Council Member next year; until then, I am proud to stand alongside my fellow citizens as a strong voice for change and civil rights.