This spring, the Empire State Pride Agenda’s Equality and Justice Day was held in Albany. From Hobart and William Smith, 18 students attended, making them the largest collegiate contingent present—which was impressive considering the crowd amassed approximately 1,300 people.
The Empire State Pride Agenda, as New York’s leading statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and advocacy organization, petitions governmental, religious and vocational institutions to promote equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers and families.
Equality and Justice Day is held annually in Albany to give New Yorkers an opportunity to lobby their state representatives to alert them of the issues of importance to the LGBT community.
“I think that it’s important that people attend events like Equality and Justice Day,” says Co- President of HWS PRIDE Alliance John Monaghan ’11, “because it sends a message to our elected officials that we are watching them and that they are answerable to their constituents. Many state politicians believe that once they are elected, people will continue to elect them because they are in the same party. At Equality and Justice Day, and other lobbying events as well, people tell their elected officials: ‘Enough is enough! I don’t care what party you’re in or what rhetoric you use, I care about the actual policies you enact.’”
This year, with the hope of meeting other students to discuss what issues are important to the LGBT college demographic and how to become better advocates on those issues, a college caucus, which Monaghan helped organize, was held.
“It’s important that college students attend these types of events,” says Monaghan, “because many politicians believe young people are apathetic about political issues. They ignore the needs of young people because they think we have no effect on elections. We clearly sent the message to Albany that HWS are full of young people who are politically active.”
And it was not only current HWS students trying to incite change. Hobart alumnus, partner in the corporate division of the Davis & Gilbert Law Firm in New York City and Vice Chair on the Pride Agenda’s Board of Directors, Mitchell W. Karsh ’83 also lent his support at Equality and Justice Day.
The lobbying and rallying seemed to have paid off. A few days after Equality and Justice Day, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) passed a vote in one of the two committees it needed to in order to make it to the floor for a general vote. GENDA would make it illegal to fire, evict or deny credit to someone because of how he or she presents his or her gender.
“Politicians have ignored the voices of Transgender New Yorkers and their allies for over five years now,” Monaghan says. “But after 1,300 New Yorkers came to Albany, it passed one of the two committees for the first time in five years…And after the elections, New York could have a pro-LGBT State Senate and Assembly. Maybe next year will be the year that LGBT New Yorkers receive full equality under the law.”
Monaghan’s anticipated major is public policy with a minor in history. Aside from his duties as Co-President of HWS PRIDE Alliance, he is a member of Orange Key and a member of the Debate Team. This summer, he is interning for the Empire State Pride Agenda in their New York City office.
Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda and Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation, spoke in the Geneva Room in the Warren Hunting Smith Library earlier this semester. Click here for more details.