First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) Would Be ‘Devastating’ for LGBTQ Americans

 Earlier this month, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, through his spokesperson said they plan to reintroduce an embattled bill that barely gained a House hearing in 2015. But this time around, they said, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) was likely to succeed due to a Republican-controlled House and the backing of President-Elect Donald Trump.
fadawould prohibit the federal government from taking “discriminatory action” against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: “(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
Ironically, the language of the bill position the right to discriminate against one class of Americans as a “first amendment” right, and bans the government from taking any form of action to curb such discrimination—including withholding federal funds from institutions that discriminate. FADA allows individuals and businesses to sue the federal government for interfering in their right to discriminate against LGBTQ people and would mandate the Attorney General defend the businesses.

FADA was first filed in the House and Senate in 2015, but was met with protests from Democrats and resulted in just one House hearing amid concerns that Obama would veto the bill. It is currently co-sponsored by 171 House Republicans and just one Democrat (Daniel Lipinski of Illinois.)

State-level legislation similar to FADA has failed in recent years, usually resulting from lawsuits and nationwide boycotts. When Vice President-elect Mike Pence passed a “religious freedom” bill as governor of Indiana in March 2015, it was met with protests, financial losses from businesses that pulled operations from the state. It ultimately required an amendment issued in April to protect LGBTQ people from the bill’s discrimination.

Mississippi’s HB 1523 is nearly identical to FADA. The state law, passed in 2016 but quickly blocked by a judge, allows people and businesses in the state to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on three sets of religious beliefs: “Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage, and male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

A lawsuit brought by Mississippi religious leaders alleges the state law actually violates religious freedom by determining that religious belief necessitates anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The group of ordained ministers suing the state said in the lawsuit, Barber v. Bryant, that Mississippi violates its right to freedom of religion “because persons who hold contrary religious beliefs are unprotected—the State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others.”

Barber v. Bryant is currently at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal trial court ruled HB 1523 violates the federal Equal Protection and Establishment Clauses. Pizer said the case stands as an example of the legal explosion that would occur in reaction to FADA.

“If Congress were to pass the federal FADA as currently written, and the next president were to sign it into law, I’m confident heads would spin at how fast the constitutional challenges would fly into court,” Pizer said, adding “we’re likely to have a great many allies because these attempts to misuse religion for discrimination offend enormous numbers of Americans who cherish both religious liberty and equality for all.”

New York City adopts ​gender-neutral bathrooms

Single-occupant restrooms at restaurants, bars and other public places in New York City will all be gender-neutral under a new law signed Tuesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The bill, which requires that “men” and “women” signs on single-stall restrooms be replaced with ones indicating they are Gender Neutral is “yet another step toward becoming a place where all can live with dignity, free from fear and free from judgment,” the mayor said.

The legislation was designed with transgender/ gender non-conforming people in mind, though it could also benefit the women who get stuck in long lines while the men’s room is empty and parents tending to children of the opposite sex.

Similar legislation has been adopted in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., West Hollywood, and Austin, Texas .

The New York bill passed the City Council on a 47-2 vote last week and has met with little opposition.

“Most New Yorkers take their unfettered access to bathrooms for granted, yet every single day, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals must grapple with the fact that their choices may lead to harassment or worse,” City Councilman Danny Dromm

“Other places in the country are trying to divide Americans with small-minded things, such as who can use a restroom. We’re dedicated to accommodating all people in New York City,” speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said.

Kevin Dugan, regional director of the New York State Restaurant Association, which has lobbied against previous bills like the one requiring chain eateries to post calorie counts, said he didn’t expect the bathroom law to hurt business.

This piece of legislation was personal for me because for almost a year this has been my project. I saw it thru the legislative process and advocated for it. Read The Text of 871-A

The New York City Department of Education released the Transgender Student Guide

A couple days before the first hearing of Chairperson of the Education Committee Councilmember Daniel Dromm had his first hearing on LGBT students and the DOE. The DOE (Department of Education) released the “Transgender Student Guidelines”. While I commend the work of the DOE for putting out these guidelines I do see many issues with them, I hope to work with CM Dromm and the Education committee on these guidelines, to make the classroom experience better than it was when CM Dromm was a teacher and better even more than when I was a public school student growing up in Staten Island 


These guidelines are intended to help schools ensure a safe learning environment free of discrimination and harassment, and to promote the educational and social integration of transgender students.  They do not anticipate every situation that may occur and the needs of each student must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.  Every student and school is unique and building administrators should discuss these issues with students and their families and draw on the experiences and expertise of their colleagues as well as external resources where appropriate. 
1. “Gender Identity” is a person’s inner sense of being male or female, regardless of their biological gender assigned at birth. 
2. “Transgender” is a term which describes people whose gender identity or gender expression is different from their assigned sex at birth.
3. “Gender expression” refers to the way a person expresses gender to others in ways that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice or mannerisms.
It is the policy of the New York City Department of Education to maintain a safe and supportive learning and educational environment that is free from harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying and free from discrimination on account of actual or perceived race, color, creed, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship/immigration status, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, or weight. 
Complaints alleging discrimination or harassment based on a person’s actual or perceived transgender status or gender nonconformity must be handled in accordance with the procedures set forth in Chancellor’s Regulation A-832 (for student-on-student allegations) and Chancellor’s Regulation A-830 (for staff-on-student allegations).
Except as set forth herein, school personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status. Under the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), only those school employees with a legitimate educational need should have access to a student’s records or the information contained within those records.  Disclosing confidential student information to other employees, students, parents, or other third parties may violate privacy laws, including but not limited to FERPA. Transgender students have the ability, as do all students, to discuss and express their gender identity and expression openly and decide when, with whom, and how much of their private information to share with others.
Schools should work closely with the student and family in devising an appropriate plan regarding the confidentiality of the student’s transgender status that works for both the student and the school.  Privacy considerations may also vary with the age of the student.      
In some cases, transgender students may feel more supported and safe if other students are aware that they are transgender.  In these cases, school staff should work closely with the student, families and other staff members on a plan to inform and educate the student’s peers.  It may also be appropriate to engage external resources to assist with educational efforts.  A list of support organizations for transgender students is listed at the end of this document.
Official Records
Each school is required to maintain a permanent pupil record of each student, which includes the legal name of the student as well as the student’s biological gender. In addition, schools are required to use a student’s legal name and biological gender on standardized tests and reports to the State Education Department.
To the extent that the school is not legally required to use a student’s legal name or gender on school records and other documents, the school should use the name and gender preferred by the student. 
A student’s permanent pupil record should be changed to reflect a change in legal name or gender only upon receipt of documentation that such legal name and/or gender have been changed pursuant to applicable law.
• The documentation required for a legal change of name is a court order or birth certificate demonstrating the student’s new name.  
• For a legal change of gender, the student must provide a birth certificate indicating the student’s gender, or a valid passport indicating the student’s gender.   
The following procedures should be followed if a school receives a request to change a student’s record to reflect a change in legal name and/or gender.  For students who are currently enrolled in a New York City public school, the school in which the student is enrolled should make the name and/or gender change in ATS upon receipt of the required documentation. For students who have been discharged, the school should forward the request for the name and/or gender change to the Network data/applications specialist with the appropriate documentation. The Network will follow-up to make sure the appropriate change is made in ATS.
In all cases, in order to ensure that records accurately reflect circumstances in effect at the time each record was made, that records can be cross-referenced, and in order to maintain the confidentiality of the student’s transgender status to the extent possible, the former name and/or gender will be maintained in archived data in the DOE’S central database.
Students should be addressed by school staff by the name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity that is consistently asserted at school.  Students are not required to obtain a court ordered name and/or gender change or to change their pupil personnel records as a prerequisite to being addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity.  To the extent possible and consistent with these guidelines, school personnel should make efforts to maintain the confidentiality of the student’s transgender status.  
Student IDs should be issued in the name that reflects a student’s gender identity that is consistently asserted at school.
Sports and Physical Education
Transgender students are to be provided the same opportunities to participate in physical education as are all other students.  Generally, students should be permitted to participate in physical education and sports in accordance with the student’s gender identity that is consistently asserted at school.  Participation in competitive athletic activities and contact sports will be resolved on a case-by-case basis.
Restroom and Locker Room Accessibility
The DOE aims to support transgender students while also ensuring the safety and comfort of all students.  The use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students requires schools to consider numerous factors, including, but not limited to: the transgender student’s preference; protecting student privacy; maximizing social integration of the transgender student; minimizing stigmatization of the student; ensuring equal opportunity to participate; the student’s age; and protecting the safety of the students involved.  
A transgender student who expresses a need or desire for increased privacy should be provided with reasonable alternative arrangements.  Reasonable alternative arrangements may include the use of a private area, or a separate changing schedule, or use of a single stall restroom.  Any alternative arrangement should be provided in a way that protects the student’s ability to keep his or her transgender status confidential.  
A transgender student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity.
Gender Segregation in Other Areas
As a general rule, in any other circumstances where students are separated by gender in school activities (i.e. overnight field trips), students should be permitted to participate in accordance with their gender identity consistently asserted at school.  Activities that may involve the need for accommodations to address student privacy concerns will be addressed on a case-by-case basis considering the factors set forth above.  
Dress Codes
Schools can enforce dress codes that are adopted pursuant to Chancellor’s Regulation A-665.  Students have the right to dress in accordance with their gender identity that is consistently asserted at school, within the constraints of the dress codes adopted at their school site.   
Resources for Transgender or “Transitioning” Students
Schools have a unique and powerful opportunity to support transgender students, including those going through a gender transition, while providing education to the entire school community.   It is not unusual for a child’s desire to transition to first surface at school.  If school staff believe that a gender identity issue is presenting itself and creating challenges for the student at school or if a student indicates an intention to transition, the school should make every effort to work with the student and the child’s parents. Where the student indicates an intention to transition, the school should work with the family to prepare for a formal gender transition at school and put in place measures for supporting the child and creating a sensitive supportive environment at school.   Toward that end, schools should: 
1) Make resources available to parents who have additional questions or concerns. 
2) Develop age-appropriate lessons for students about gender diversity and acceptance: and
3) Be especially vigilant for any bullying or harassment issues that may arise for transgender students.  Pursuant to DOE policy, schools must work to prevent bullying and harassment, and respond promptly when allegations of bullying and harassment arise.
Some transgender students do not want their parents to know about their transgender status.  These situations must be addresses on a case-by-case basis and require schools to balance the goal of supporting the student with the requirement that   parents be kept informed about their children. In these circumstances, you should confer with your Senior Field Counsel about how to proceed.
If the school has a School-Based Mental Health Clinic, this can be an important first resource for the student and school community. Providers are sensitive to identity issues and have been trained to be a source of support for students regarding gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
The following organizations provide support to transgender individuals:
• GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) is a prominent organization supporting GLBT youth. They have resources about creating safe and supportive environments for students. 
• The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
Resources For Parents, Educators, And Service Providers:
Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. 
PFLAG Resources
Download this free guide (PDF) to get the basics on what being transgender means, how to talk about it, and how to find the resources that can support you.
There are more than 350 PFLAG chapters across the U.S. Find one near you right now
Partner Organizations Resources
Knowing and using correct language can be very important to transgender and gender non-conforming people, just like everyone else. Here is a handy terminology guide regarding gender identity.
This downloadable pamphlet from the APA answers questions about transgender people, gender identity and gender expression.
Parent and Educator Resources
Raising children who don’t fit neatly into male or female boxes brings a wealth of questions and uncertainties. Here you will find information and support to assist you in your search for answers.
The Trans Youth Equality Foundation is based in Maine, but offers education, advocacy and support for transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth and their families everywhere by sharing information about the unique needs of this community and partnering with families, educators and service providers to help foster a healthy, caring, and safe environment for all transgender children.
Families in TRANSition: A Resource Guide for Parents of Trans Youth is the first comprehensive Canadian publication (created by Central Toronto Youth Services) to address the needs of parents and families supporting their trans children.  It summarizes the experiences, strategies, and successes of a working group of community consultants – researchers, counselors, parents, advocates as well as trans youth themselves
This gentle and easy-to-use FAQ gives people an accessible set of guidelines that can be used in everyday life.
Like all young people in care, transgender youth are entitled to bias-free attention to their unique needs and to be safe in their placements and services. This guide, created by Lambda Legal and the Child Welfare League of America, provides child welfare professionals who work with transgender young people with education about transgender issues and tools to help prepare them to work sensitively with these clients.
TYFA works to empower children and families by partnering with educators, service providers and communities, to develop supportive environments in which gender may be expressed and respected. They envision a society free of suicide and violence in which all children are respected and celebrated.


Queens PFLAG NYC Chapter Honors Cliff Arnesen and New Out LGBT members of the New York City Council

Tomorrow the Queens Chapter of the New York City PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays hold their Annual Awards Reception and Luncheon. I have been asked to read the speech of honoree Cliff Arnesen who is being honored with the “Brenda Howard Memorial Award.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Greetings and blessings to all participants of the Queens NYC Chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) “Annual Awards Reception and Luncheon.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am unable to be with all of you today to receive the “Brenda Howard Memorial Award,” for my dual roles as an advocate of 24 years on behalf of the Bisexual Community; and our Country’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Heterosexual military veterans. Thus, Bryan Ellicott, has generously agreed to read my acceptance speech to you as follows:
I am humbled and honored to be selected by the The Queens NYC Chapter of PFLAG to receive the Brenda Howard Memorial Award, for helping to secure human and civil rights-not special rights- for my bisexual brothers and sisters within society.
However, as is always the case when seeking equality for any “minority” population of people within society , I stand upon the shoulders of the monumental accomplishments of Bisexual pioneers, such as the late Brenda Howard, and so many others.
The seeds of my journey of advocacy was prompted in the details of my dysfunctional childhood growing up in Brooklyn, NY. Although I had biological parents, around the age of three, my loving mother was forced by the state of New York to place me in an orphanage , after being physically assaulted by my violent alcoholic father.
At the age of ten, my Mom sent me away to the predominately African American, Wiltwyck School for Boys, where I met and became friends with the late First Lady, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who was on the Board of Directors. It was at Wiltwyck that I knew that I was physically and emotionally attracted to other  boys, as well as girls. 
1n 1965, At the age of seventeen, I joined the U.S. Army, but agonized over the painful necessity of having to conceal the “attraction and affection” I felt in my heart toward other soldiers. Finally, I told my Company Commander that I was gay/bisexual , because I could no longer live my life as a lie and conceal my “secret.” 
Thereafter, I was court court-martialed and sentenced to a year at hard labor in the stockade-of which I served  three months in “segregated confinement,” as other prisoners in the general population had threatened to rape and kill me. Then, in 1967, 
I was given an “Undesirable Discharge” based on homosexuality, as the military made no distinction between a soldier who was gay or bisexual.
Ten years later, in November of 1977, I petitioned the Department of the Army for an upgrade in discharge, which was granted and changed from “Undesirable” to “General Under Honorable Conditions.”
In 1988, I attended a meeting of the New England Gay & Lesbian Veterans in Boston, MA. After the meeting, I ran for office and was elected president.
Subsequently, on May 3, 1989 and May 16, 1990, respectively, I    became the first and only openly bisexual veteran in U.S. history to testify before Congress on behalf of GLBT veterans before the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, on issues relating to veterans who suffered from HIV/AIDS, PTSD, homelessness, and less-than-honorable discharges based on homosexuality and bisexuality.
During my 24 years of advocacy as an “openly bisexual veteran” I took a lot of “heat” from miscellaneous organizations and individuals for speaking up so vociferously as an out bisexual veteran. 
To these organizations and individuals, I sincerely state that it was, and is, my moral and ethical responsibility to speak out on the issue of the marginalization of bisexuals in the military under the now repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; and within the larger Gay Community, as all should know what terrible consequences people can suffer when one does not “speak out” about external and internal injustice. I only sought acceptance and recognition for ALL bisexual people who have made enormous contributions in helping to secure human and civil rights for the larger gay community.
Personally, I wish we as human beings did not have to “label”
our sexual orientation(s). But, as was the case in the U.S. Military where bisexuality was “specifically” encoded as a basis for discharge, I had to “speak up” when it was not fully integrated in the equation of the generic “Gays” in the Military,” espoused by many gay organizations, and the gay and straight media – whether intentional or unintentional.
For the record, I state that bisexuality is NOT a counterfeit behavior. It is a true “sexual orientation.” The unfounded fear lies within the mindset of people that oppose the concept of bisexual people as having “heterosexual privilege.”
To those folks, I state that people have lived and died without ever having found love in this world. Thus, no love by anyone of a specific sexual orientation or gender identification or expression should be judged by others!
GLB&T people must remember that all of us are God’s children, and that we need each other to fight our real mutual enemies: the Religious Right; perverted organized religions; cults; fundamentalists; conservatives; and so many others who hate GLBT people and use the Bible as a means and tool to try and justify their sick hatred of us-collectively.
Thus, we must ALL band together to fight the injustice of the aforementioned dark forces of evil. Otherwise, we defeat the very purpose of trying to secure human and civil rights for
each other-which is the ultimate injustice! 
To this effect, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
So, I rest secure in the knowledge that all Bisexual people , along with GL&T people- have a rightful place in the universe and within our society, as “we” are God’s children -and God does not make mistakes!
The greatest feeling in my heart today is to know that I have tried for 24 years to make this world a better place in which to live for all GLBT people. 
And, I am grateful to my Bisexual brothers & sisters who supported me over the years, which gave me the strength to carry on. Among those iconic nationally known bisexual icons and friends were Loraine Hutchins; and Professors Lani Ka’ahumanu, Robyn Ochs, and many others too numerous to pay tribute to.
As for myself, I have learned in my painful journey through life that “love is where one finds it.”
Sincerely and bisexually yours,
Cliff Arnesen, Past Bisexual President
New England GLBT Veterans, Inc. Boston, MA
( “Dissolved” on Nov. 1, 2013 after 28 years of advocacy 
on behalf of our Country’s GLBT military veterans.)
Former Board Member: National Bisexual Advisory Board
Former Medical Patient Services Assistant, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Facebook Master Photos: Cliff Arnesen

Transgender Women Attacked in Astoria Queens

On January 8th, 2014 a 30 year old transwoman whom wishes to remain anonymous for now, went to the Neptune Diner in Astoria Queens, New York City to eat an early morning meal with a friend. Her friend, a 32 year old cisgender man, went to the restroom. According to Deputy Inspector Kevin Maloney of the 114th Precinct in NYC that is when three other patrons in the diner began to insult the transwoman.

The three other patrons included two cisgender women and one cisgender male. One of the ciswoman commented loudly to her friend “She is really a man”, while referring to the transwoman. Then one of the ciswoman remarked to the transwoman “Why are you dressed like that,” referring to and discriminating about her gender identity presentation. According to Deputy Inspector Maloney at that point the cisman returned from the restroom and one of the ciswomen threw a plate at his face.

The police were called and the offenders had left the diner before they arrived. The cisman and transwoman were taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Astoria Queens. The cisman received twelve stitches to his forehead and it is unclear if the transwoman sustained any injuries. The investigating police officers referred the case to the NYPD Hate Crimes Taskforce and it is now being investigated as a hate crime.

Police need your assistance in identifying the individuals in the photograph as they are the suspects to this attack. If you have any information please contact the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. You can also text tips to 274637 and enter TIP577.


Lance Bass endorses Melissa Mark Viverito for Speaker of the New York City Council

It might be time for Dan Garodnick to say, “Bye, bye, bye.”

In the race for City Council speaker, rival Melissa Mark-Viverito has accumulated so many supporters that even 1990s heartthrob Lance Bass is on her team.

Mr. Bass’s support–along with more than two dozen LGBT activists–is being rolled out this morning. The list includes Sex and the City star and Bill de Blasio backer Cynthia Nixon, openly LGBT councilmen and Democratic club leaders like Allen Roskoff.

“I am proud to support Melissa for Speaker for the City Council. Melissa has been an effective and consistent advocate for the LGBT community,” Mr. Bass said in a statement. “She has spent her entire career fighting for social and economic justice. I support her whole heartedly and urge other members of the LGBT to do likewise.”

While being involved in as esoteric a governmental battle as the speaker’s race is new for Mr. Bass, the ‘N Sync star has been politically active for years. He endorsed former Speaker Christine Quinn in the mayor’s race and has been involved in a campaign pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the controversial hydrofracking issue.

Ms. Mark-Viverito, who claims to have more than enough votes to win the race for the city’s second most important post, has been rolling out endorsements to try to maintain momentum since before Christmas. The 51 members of the Council are set to cast their ballots this coming Wednesday.

Celebrity endorsements like Mr. Bass’s are unlikely to sway a significant number of votes.

View the full announcement below:


More Than Two Dozen Elected Officials and Community Activists Note Viverito’s Long History of Standing up for LGBT Rights

NEW YORK- More than two dozen LGBT community activists expressed their support for Melissa Mark-Viverito today citing her long record of advocating for New York’s LGBT community. The leaders included Cynthia Nixon and partner Christine Marinoni, entertainer Lance Bass, Councilmembers, clergy and community activists. The leaders join a growing coalition of City Councilmembers, elected officials, clergy, community groups and labor from all five boroughs who are backing Viverito’s historic candidacy for Speaker.

Cynthia Nixon & Christine Marinoni said, “Melissa has been a longtime supporter of the LGBT community and will be an independent and progressive speaker. Whether it’s advocating for paid sick leave or standing up for women’s rights, Melissa will be a strong advocate for all New Yorkers.”

Lance Bass, Entertainer said, “I am proud to support Melissa for Speaker for the City Council. Melissa has been an effective and consistent advocate for the LGBT community. She has spent her entire career fighting for social and economic justice. I support her whole heartedly and urge other members of the LGBT to do likewise.”

“Melissa Mark-Viverito has been a strong advocate for LGBT issues throughout her career, including leading delegations to Puerto Rico to lobby for marriage equality and speak out against hate crimes. She will continue that legacy as City Council Speaker and I am pleased to be supporting such a proud ally as Melissa,” said Councilmember Corey Johnson.

“Throughout my time organizing the LGBT community in NYC, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito has always been a committed and passionate ally. As the first LGBT Council Member from Brooklyn, I know that when Melissa becomes our next Speaker she will fight for more funding for LGBT homeless youth, demand equal rights for Transgender New Yorkers and expand services to all five boroughs,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

“On January 8th, we in the LGBT community will have in Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, one of the strongest defenders of our equality and dignity that the City Council has ever known. Melissa is not only right on the issues that matter to us; she has a record of standing up and speaking out when others have stood by in silence,” said Councilmember Richie Torres.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said “Four years ago I travelled to Puerto Rico with Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito to draw attention to the horrific murder of a young gay man. I saw firsthand Melissa’s genuine and unwavering passion for justice for the LGBT community. And since that trip I have continued to be inspired by her fierce and heartfelt belief in marriage equality. For Melissa, dignity and full equality for the LGBT community aren’t just rhetoric – they are central to who she is. Our community still faces many struggles and we need a Speaker who won’t just support LGBT youth and seniors – we need a Speaker who has already demonstrated a desire to LEAD on these issues. I am proud to support our next Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito!”

Councilmember Daniel Dromm said, “I would be most proud and pleased to serve with Melissa Mark-Viverito as the New York City Council Speaker,” said openly gay Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). Melissa is a true progressive and is committed to the issues we care so much about. When it comes to issues concerning the LGBT community, Melissa has my full and complete trust and confidence. Melissa is a true believer in a just society and would move our city forward in a direction that would serve all New Yorkers, especially those who have been locked out. Our City Council could do no better than to have Melissa as our Speaker.”

Allen Roskoff, co-author of nation’s first Gay Rights Bill and President of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club said, “Melissa has always been a forceful advocate for LBGT rights and recognizes our needs. Her decisions will be based on what is best for the community, not on what is best for her. Melissa would be the city’s first progressive woman to serve as Speaker and the first Speaker of color. Melissa will lead the way on economic issues like Paid Sick Leave and Living Wage and create a sane economic development program for the five boroughs. In short, Melissa will be a terrific Council Speaker.

“Melissa is a well-known advocate for the LGBT community. As Speaker, she will bring new ideas and a unique perspective to the leadership of the Council,” said Lynn Schulman, Community and LGBT Activist.

“Councilwoman Mark-Viverito’s record shows that she has been a champion of equal rights for all New Yorkers, and I look forward to her leadership as Speaker,” said Monte Albers de Leon, Attorney, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club Governing Board.

“Melissa has been a champion for our community and we could not do better than having her lead the way for us as Speaker of the City Council. With Melissa in charge we can rest assure that the community’s needs and concerns will be served. Melissa is the added ingredient we need to ensure an effective and progressive agenda for all New Yorkers,” said Seth Weissman, Victory Fund Campaign Board Member.

“New York City is headed in a positive direction, one that I feel will finally recognize and respect the needs of the diverse communities that make up this city. We now have reason to believe that our elected city officials, at every level, will take the concerns of people of color, gays and lesbians, recent immigrants, the poor and working class into consideration as they formulate new public policy. To elect Melissa Mark-Viverito as City Council Speaker would only affirm the correctness of this new direction. She has already demonstrated leadership and a willingness to represent those too often left on the outside. I am confident she will continue to be an outstanding public official,” said Bernard J. Tarver, Artist/Activist.

“As a longtime activist in New York City, I am proud to stand with Melissa Mark-Viverito and look forward to her leadership as the next Speaker of the New York City Council. Melissa understands the LGBT community as well as any ally and has been a wonderful friend of transgender people in the aftermath of the Islan Nettles murder in Harlem. Thank you, Melissa, for your friendship and leadership,” said Melissa Sklarz, Stonewall Democrats of New York City.

“I over 100% support Melissa Mark-Viverito! She has proven herself to be there for the community when they most need her support and has been extremely active in issues impacting both gay and non-gay communities. I applaud her and send her my blessings for the coming year.. Pa’Lante Hermana!” said Rev. Carmen Hernandez.

“Melissa is a very strong leader and has always been an advocate for the LGBT community. She has what it takes to advance our rights and help us achieve full equality” said Liz J. Abzug.

“Melissa Mark-Viverito’s ability to build such a strong coalition so far in advance of the vote for City Council Speaker demonstrates the proven effectiveness of a true leader who is able to work with everyone and build bridges, which is necessary to carry out the duties of the Speaker’s office. Her continuous inclusion of LGBTQ issues across the board — not just when it’s “appropriate” — is fostering dialogue that continues to benefit our LGBTQ communities,”said Peter C. “Equality” Frank, LGBTQ community activist.

“I have seen firsthand how Melissa’s tireless efforts on progressive issues like stop-and-frisk and economic and social equality have distinguished her as a leader in the City Council and in our communities. New York City needs Melissa Mark-Viverito to continue to champion these important causes as the next Speaker of the City Council,” said Justin Carroll, Attorney, Lower East Side Community Member.

“In March of 2012, Melissa Mark-Viverito was one of the first NYC Council Members to sign the Police Reform Organizing Project’s [PROP] petition calling for the end to stop-and-frisk and use of quotas, which have had an adverse impact on people of color in the LGBTQ community. She will make a great NYC Council Speaker,” said Robert Pinter, LGBTQ activist for police reform.

Anabel Evora, Latina Lesbian Community Organizer said, “Melissa Mark-Viverito’s passion, vision, and dedication vibrates in our community – she has stood by us, for us, and with us.”
“I fully support the candidacy of Melissa Mark Viverito for Speaker of the NYC Council. Melissa is tough, independent, and progressive. She has delivered for her constituents and will do a great job as speaker. As a proudly openly gay Latino elected official from The Bronx, we need Melissa’s professional work ethic and her tenacity to fight for our LGBTQ community as well as all of the constituencies of the most vulnerable,”said Kenny Agosto (D), The Bronx.

Charles Bayor, Vice-President, Stonewall Democrats, gay rights activist said, “ I have known Melissa Mark –Viverito since her first election as councilperson. Melissa has been a steadfast voice for progressive ideas, for the workers of New York and for LGBTQ rights. This is the person New York and our community needs to lead the City Council as the Speaker. Melissa brings compassion and expertise to this important position. Melissa will be the first Latina in this position –a very important step in promoting diversity in our society and government.”

Robert E. West, President of Breaking Bread Under the Rainbow said, “Melissa Mark-Viverito has shown her commitment to the LGBT community of New York City not only by her steadfast push for equality against those external forces that have sought to deny our community the benefits, rights and status enjoyed by our heterosexual brothers and sisters, but by her constant support in facilitating dialogue and events that encourage an examination of the intra-community dynamics of our community that seek to address us in the most holistic of manners. In a mark of absolute sincerity, she has done this in the presence AND absence of cameras, always allowing the LGBT community to guide her actions, and always welcoming the community as equals in this fight for justice.”

“City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Vinenito is the best choice to become the next Speaker, she has been a leader in support of LGBT people and she understands clearly that it is one thing to gain legal and civil rights and a whole lot of other work to ensue Justice!” said Ralph Vogel, Executive Director, Staten Island LGBT Community Center.

“Time and again Melissa Mark-Viverito’s positions on issues such as stop and frisk and affordable housing demonstrate the same progressive beliefs in the rights of all New Yorkers including those of us in the LGBTQ community. I look forward to a New York City with Melissa in the role Speaker of the City Council,” said Stephen A. Williams, Community Activist.

“I think that Melissa is a true progressive and would make a great speaker of the NYC Council. She has been and I am sure that she always with be there for the LGBT community. I support Melissa with great pride,” said Tom Smith, Longtime Community Activist.

“At a time when hate crimes and misunderstanding of the Transgender community was at an all time high, MMV was instrumental in organizing a collective voice from within this community to begin a dialogue of change and understanding. She is the true definition of an ally,” said
Sean Coleman Executive Director of Destination Tomorrow and Trans Advocate.

“Melissa is the fiercest LGBT ally I’ve ever know. She is an unconditional and unwavering supporter of full LGBT rights. I am honored to call her my friend, but even prouder to know that she’ll make history as the first Latina to be Speaker of the New York City Council. As a Puerto Rican, I could not be prouder,” said Pedro Julio Serrano

Andrew Velez, HIV/AIDS Activist & Chair LGBT Advisory Panel to NYC Police Commissioner said, “When you talk with Melissa Mark-Viverito she is really listening. And when she says “Yes, I can definitely support that,” there’s no doubt that she means what says. To know she will be playing a pivotal role in the New York City Council on issues that matter in all of our lives gives us hope for much needed changes.”

“Melissa Mark-Viverito has always been a supporter of the LGBT and as an ally. She has personally supported me as a friend and mentor thru out my transition and understands the growing need for education of the transgender movement throughout the 5 boroughs of this city,” said Bryan John Ellicott of The Queer Empowerment Project.

“Melissa Mark-Viverito has always been there for us and we will always be there for her. She is the strongest ally we have ever had on the New York City Council — bar none.” said Andy Praschak, LQBTQ Community Activist and Founder of “Fundacion de Derechos Humanos.

Eunic Ortiz, Community Leader said, “Melissa has been a great advocate for the LGBT community during her 8 years in the City Council and will continue to be a strong voice for our community as Speaker. Even in a City like New York, it is important to ensure our leaders in government are vocal, strong and have shown a proven record of results when it comes to getting things done for LGBT New Yorkers. Melissa will make an outstanding Speaker and will be the voice we need for the LGBT community.”

“Melissa Mark Vivierito has been a strong ally of not just low income people of color but the LGBT community as well. My work with her in the past has always resulted in a positive outcome and this is very important to the LGBT community as we transition from one administration to another. As the Dance Director for Heritage of Pride (NYCPride), I fully support her candidacy for Speaker, and know she will continue the great support of the New York City Council that has been a benefit to us all,” said Mo George
Dance Director – Heritage of Pride and Public Housing Campaign Director of Community Voices Heard.

“It is without reservation that I support Melissa Mark-Viverito for the position of Speaker of the Council. She has been my council person until this most recent election. She has demonstrated her commitment to progressive ideals that give access to citizens to take part in the policymaking and budgetary processes of our City. She has also shown that she is willing to address issues or problems that residents consider vital to the well being of the community whether it be safe guarding children by the assignment of a school guard or protecting the quality of life by considering the impact of large luxury housing in our community,” said Dr. Wilhelmina Perry, Community Activist.

“Melissa Mark Viverito has always been a strong ally to the LGBT community. She dedicated her life to ending injustice in all its forms including discrimination and violence against members of the LGBT community both here in the City of New York and in Puerto Rico,” said Fredy Kaplan, Community Activist.

“As one of the founders of Staten Island Stonewall, the political voice of Staten Island’s LGBT Community, I am happy to make this statement in support of Melissa Mark-Viverito’s candidacy for Speaker of the NYC Council. As a straight ally, she has shown us her support both privately and publicly, going so far as to travel to Puerto Rico to lobby legislators there in support of LGBT rights legislation. I am proud to give her my support,” said Rosemary F. Palladino, Esq.

“Councilmember Mark-Viverito’s leadership on economic justice helps thousands of LGBT working people. Her leadership will be crucial in reducing the economic inequality undermining our common future,” said Rev. John Magisano, community activist.






AIDS Center of Queens County Inc- World AIDS Day Dec 2nd 2013

Monday afternoon the President of The Queer Empowerment Project Kevin Wehle and myself attended the World AIDS day event at the AIDS Center of Queens County for the 25th World AIDS day celebration. Philip Glotzer the Executive Director of ACQC introduction the Keynote Speaker New York City Councilmember Daniel Dromm addressed the group on the history of HIV/AIDS pandemic in New York City and around the country for the past 25 years. In addition too Councilmember Dromm, Reverend Stacey Latimer Board Member of ACQC and Randall Bruce Community Advisory Board member of ACQC giving moving testimony of the progress and the continued work too move to a zero percent infection rate in New York City. 





Dec 1st. is World AIDS Day, an opportunity for people to come together globally, demonstrating international solidarity in the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. “Getting to Zero” has been as the theme for the years of 2011-2015, signifying a push toward greater access to treatment for all: ZERO new HIV infections, ZERO HIV/AIDS discrimination and ZERO AIDS related deaths. 

The Next Speaker of the New York City Council

Who is “running” to become the Next Speaker for the next four years?


  • Mark Weprin  (Queens)
  • Melissa Mark-Viverito (Manhattan) þ
  • Inez  Dickens  (Manhattan)
  • Annabel Palma  (Manhattan)
  • Daniel Garodnick   (Manhattan)
  • James Vacca (Bronx)
  • Jummane Williams (Brooklyn)


þ = my choice for Speaker in 2014


What is happening…


  • The 51 members of the New York City Council will elect one of their own as Speaker in January replacing Speaker Christine Quinn, who will no longer be on the Council.


  • Several council members are seeking the position, which is arguably the second most powerful in City Government, behind the Mayor.


  • In partnership with community groups, newly elected and returning members of the city council held 5 community forums to allow voters an opportunity to hear from those seeking the Speakership. Voters are encouraged to attend and to give input to their city council representative prior to January’s speaker vote.


What the Speaker does…


  • The Speaker of the City Council is the public representative and voice of the 51 member body


  • On behalf of the council and its members constituents, the Speaker is often responsible for acting as a check on the mayor


  • The Speaker sets council meetings and agenda, and presides over full council meetings


  • The Speaker decides which proposed legislation (bills that council members want to become laws) is allowed to go to the floor of the city council for a vote.


  • The Speaker decides how a large sum of City dollars is allocated to individual council member for expenditure in their districts. This sum is known as the councils “discretionary funds”


  • Currently, the Speaker can appropriate portions of this sum to the different councilmembers as he or she sees fit. These allocations are known as “member items” and very greatly.


Potential Changes to the Speaker’s role…


Led by several recently re- elected council members and signed onto by a total of 31 of the 2014 council member, reformed this group is seeking highlighted by the following


  • Take the politics out of Member items by allocating discretionary funding for Council Districts on a fair and objective basis (either equally, or via a need-driven formula, disclosed publicly in advance)


  • Ensure fair consideration of legislation, by establishing an independent legislative drafting unit the City Council and making the legislative process more transparent


  • Dedicate a greater share of Council resources to enabling Members to provide effective services to the public



Rally Today at City Hall


Today members of the Communities United for Police Reform calling the City to drop the appeal on stop and frisk and to let the much needed reforms proceed. On October 31st 2013 a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted the City’s motion to stay the District Court’s remedial decision pending appeal, and ordered a new District Court judge to oversee the case.

Mayor- elect Bill de Blasio says he will drop the appeal in regards to the Floyd case, when he officially goes into office on the first of January. The community until that time needs to keep the pressure both on Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner of the NYPD Ray Kelly that Stop and Frisk in this current administration is unconstitutional.

New York Ballot Proposals

Proposal 1Authorizing Casino Gaming 

The proposed amendment to section 9 articles 1 of the Constitution would allow the legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislation purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local government to lower property taxes through revenues generated.


  • Legalized casinos are a predatory scheme to raise money from the poor and vulnerable. They would lead to an increase in compulsive gambling, which has financial and social consequences for victims and their loved ones.


  • Casinos attract illegal activities such as forgery, fraud, theft, embezzlement and prostitution. These and other problems caused by gambling could cost the state nearly $400 million per year.


  • We should not permit casinos in New York before we more carefully study their potential impact. Casinos do not guarantee economic development and sometime have little overall economic effort.


  • Casino in New York will not be especially profitable, and will have limited impact on regional economies, because the Northeast has recently become saturated with casinos.


Proposal 2- Additional Civil Service Credit for Veterans with Disabilities Certified Past- Appointment.


  • This exemption would allow cities and towns to maintain high-quality sewage systems without exceeding their constitutional debt limitations


  • This proposal would allow municipalities to continue an appropriate financial management practice that has been in place for over 50 years.

Proposal 6- Increasing Age until which Certain State Judge Can Serve


  • Proposition 6 is a step toward ending age discrimination. NYS Judges are forced to retire at age 70 due to a clause in our state constitution that was written in 1869 when people lived an average of 40 years. NYS Judges are the only people in NYS that are forced to retire due to age