Showing posts with label NY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NY. Show all posts

July 16, 2020

Police Union For NYS Troopers Want Out of NYC Because of the NO Chokeholds Law

"SEND THEM AWAY TO ANOTHER STATE I SAY" I hear Russia is Hiring...

Dangerous': Around World, Police Chokeholds Scrutinized | Chicago ...

                                     New York will require its state troopers to wear body cameras on ...

Denis Slattery 

New York State Troopers PBA president Thomas Mungeer issued a scathing statement on Wednesday “demanding” that state troopers be removed from the five boroughs “and cease any law enforcement activities within that jurisdiction.”  
The call comes as Mayor de Blasio is slated to sign off on a package of police reform bills recently passed by the City Council. One measure bans the use chokeholds, which are already outlawed at the state level, but adds language holding cops culpable for “sitting, kneeling or standing on the chest or back in a manner that compresses the diaphragm.”
“This poorly conceived bill, which will be signed into law by Mayor de Blasio today, puts an undue burden upon our troopers; it opens them up to criminal and civil liability for restraining a person during a lawful arrest in a manner that is consistent with their training and is legal throughout the rest of the state,” Mungeer said. “Furthermore, this legislation will prevent troopers from safely and effectively arresting resistant subjects.”
Other bills passed by the City Council last month include a measure requiring officer badge numbers to be visible and another calling for oversight of the NYPD’s surveillance technology.
The reforms mirror moves taken by the state Legislature in the wake of civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, an African-American man killed in May when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes.
Mungeer focused his ire on the bill barring cops from placing any pressure on a person’s chest or back, saying that such tactics are “commonly used by many law enforcement agencies statewide and nationwide when officers are faced with violently combative subjects.”
“I find it extremely troubling that these acts are now defined as criminal in nature, even if they were unintentional and no injury was sustained by the subject,” he added.
NYPD brass have expressed similar concerns about the bill.
In recent years, Gov. Cuomo has upped the number of troopers stationed in the city, adding additional units to monitor the city’s airports and roadways.
Mungeer directed his demand at New York State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett, but said there are other options if troopers remain stationed in the city.
He suggested asking Attorney General Letitia James to indemnify State Police members from the “ill-conceived law,” but cast doubt on the likelihood that would happen.
“As that is unlikely to happen, it is the position of the Troopers PBA that if we continue to allow our members to remain stationed and conduct police activity within the five boroughs of New York City, we may be opening them up to criminal and civil liabilities simply by doing the job they were trained to do,” he said.

June 20, 2019

"Gay Panic" Defense Banned In a NY Case of Murder in NYC

Islan Nettles, a transgender woman who died after being punched in the face on a New York City street.
Islan Nettles, a transgender woman who died after being punched in the face on a New York City street. 


Since as early as the 1960s, defense lawyers have introduced the idea that people accused of murdering lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people had acted in a state of temporary insanity caused and justified by their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The legal strategy, known as the “gay panic” or “transgender panic” defenses, was not always effective, and as attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people shifted, it was used less often. But it has still been deployed in recent years by lawyers hoping to win a jury’s sympathy, lessen a defendant’s charges or shorten a sentence.

On Wednesday, New York became the seventh State Legislature to approve a ban on such defenses.

The measure’s passage came amid a growing national push to bar the defenses, which gay and transgender rights activists say codify discriminatory attitudes into the legal system. Lawmakers in three other states approved similar bans this year.

Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell and State Senator Brad Hoylman, both gay Democrats from Manhattan, had introduced bills last weekend that would stop people charged with murder from mounting gay panic or transgender panic defenses. 

The legislation, which was approved during Pride Month and as New York prepared to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, was the culmination of an effort that started when Mr. Hoylman introduced a similar bill in 2014.

“I’m glad that New York is sending a message to prosecutors, to defense attorneys, juries and judges that a victim’s L.G.B.T.Q. identity can’t be weaponized,” Mr. Hoylman said in an interview.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has said he would sign the bill, called the measure “an important win for L.G.B.T.Q. people everywhere.”

Several New York-based criminal defense organizations that opposed the legislation signed a statement last week that said the ban would interfere with an accused person’s constitutional right to defend themselves.

“We are absolutely opposed to the limitations of defenses,” said Alice Fontier, the director of the criminal defense practice of the Bronx Defenders, which signed the statement. “It’s ultimately about due process and a fair trial to anyone that comes before the court.” 

Mr. O’Donnell, a former criminal defense lawyer, said he understood those concerns, but believed that New York needed to pass the law to further protect L.G.B.T. victims.

“In the end, our state needs to stand up and say being gay, being trans, is not a defense for killing someone,” he said.

The panic defenses stemmed from psychologists’ assertions that same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria were mental illnesses, according to a 2016 study by the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law,.

Those notions were discredited by the medical community in the 1970s, but not before defendants began to argue that upon learning a victim was gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, they suffered temporary insanity that spurred their violent actions.

The defenses effectively shifted blame onto the victim, re-victimizing them, according to Richard Saenz, a lawyer at Lambda Legal, a national L.G.B.T. civil rights organization.

“It assumes that this person was hiding or trying to be deceptive in some way,” Mr. Saenz said. “And when their sexual orientation or gender identity was discovered, the response was reasonable, even to the point of death.”

The defense strategy received widespread attention after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, was killed in Wyoming in 1998. Lawyers for one of the accused men tried to argue that their client had beaten Mr. Shepard to death after Mr. Shepard made unwanted sexual advances on him.
Sign Up for Summer in the City

A judge rejected the argument, but the conversation spilled from a Wyoming district court to the national spotlight.

In New York, one of the most high-profile cases involving the defense came in 2013, after a transgender woman, Islan Nettles was beaten to death on a street in Harlem. Her attacker told the police he had flown into “a fury” after finding out that Ms. Nettles, with whom he had been flirting, was transgender.

The attacker, James Dixon, ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received 12 years in prison, a sentence that Ms. Nettles’s family and activists said would have been harsher had he not been able to cite “transgender panic” in his confession.

The American Bar Association formally called on governments to end the use of panic defenses in 2013. California was the first state to ban the defenses, in 2014. Illinois followed in 2017, and Rhode Island the year after.

Efforts seemed to have picked up this year. Nevada banned the defenses in May, and Hawaii and Connecticut have sent similar bills to their governors, neither of whom have signed them. (A spokeswoman for Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said he planned to do so. A spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige of Hawaii said he was still reviewing the legislation.)

In Congress, Senator Edward J. Markey and Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, both Massachusetts Democrats, introduced bills last year and this year that proposed to ban the defenses in federal courts. 

In New York, Mr. Cuomo’s efforts came as part of a push to advance gay and transgender rights. In January, at the start of the legislative session, New York banned “conversion therapy” for minors, in which mental health professionals work to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
New York Passes a Ban on ‘Conversion Therapy’ After Years-Long EffortsJan. 21, 2019
The same month, the Legislature also passed a bill protecting transgender and gender nonconforming people under New York’s discrimination and hate crimes laws.

Mr. Cuomo had originally proposed ending the panic defense as part of his executive budget. In the last month, he made the issue a priority, holding a rally last week with the Bravo TV personality Andy Cohen.

“With the enactment of this measure, we are sending a noxious legal defense strategy to the dustbin of history where it belongs,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement on Wednesday.

Opponents of New York’s panic defense bill were quick to applaud lawmakers’ strides toward securing L.G.B.T. rights, and said they found the defenses problematic.

“I don’t think that the homophobia or transphobia is acceptable,” said Lori Cohen, the president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which signed the statement opposing the legislation.

But Ms. Cohen, who identified as a lesbian, said she was skeptical that a measure would effectively address violence against gay and transgender people. 

Instead, she said, lawmakers should address the underlying social issues that led judges or juries to accept these defenses.

Mr. Hoylman rejected that argument.

“I don’t think we can leave it to judges and juries given the record of homophobia that we’ve seen in courtrooms,” he said. “We’re acting prudently to codify values of tolerance and acceptance of L.G.B.T.Q. people.”

A version of this article appears in print on June 20, 2019, on Page A28 of the New York edition with the headline: Rejecting a Murder Defense.

August 6, 2018

NRA Says They Are Going Through A Financial Crisis Due to Lawsuit From NY Officials

 No Every crazy should be carrying a gun leave a lone an AK 47 as above  (real pic inside a church)

The National Rifle Association says it could soon face a financial crisis that will force it to shut down some of its operations, including broadcasts by its NRA TV division. The gun rights group blames a campaign by Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomoaimed at discouraging insurance companies and other financial institutions from doing business with the NRA. 
The organization has filed a lawsuit against Cuomo and the New York State Department of Financial Services in federal court, alleging that Cuomo and state regulators seek to "deprive the NRA and its constituents of their First Amendment rights to speak freely about gun-related issues and defend the Second Amendment."
Brian Mann, who reports for NPR and North Country Public Radio, says the suit claims Cuomo's actions could "deprive the NRA" of banking, insurance and other financial services that are "essential to the NRA's corporate existence."
The NRA is asking for an immediate injunction to prevent state officials from "interfering with, terminating, or diminishing any of the NRA's contracts and/or business relationships with any organizations." 

"If the NRA is unable to collect donations from its members, safeguard the assets endowed to it, apply its funds to cover media buys and other expenses integral to its political speech, and obtain basic corporate insurance coverage, it will be unable to exist as a not-for-profit or pursue its advocacy mission," the lawsuit states. "Defendants seek to silence one of America's oldest constitutional rights advocates. If their abuses are not enjoined, they will soon, substantially, succeed."
The news that the NRA may be in financial woes is being cheered by student activists and survivors of recent mass shootings, like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg. The advocates from Parkland, Fla., say the news is evidence "the young people are winning." New York's governor doesn't appear to be backing down. In a statement, Cuomo has described the NRA's lawsuit as "a futile and desperate attempt to advance its dangerous agenda to sell more guns."
"In New York, we won't be intimidated by frivolous court actions from a group of lobbyists bent on chipping away at common sense gun safety laws that many responsible gun owners actually support," the governor's office said. "I am proud of my 'F' rating from the NRA, and I will continue to do everything I can to keep New Yorkers safe."
But Cuomo also acknowledged that in April, he directed state regulators to "urge insurance companies, New York State-chartered banks, and other financial services companies licensed in New York to review any relationships they may have with the National Rifle Association." Cuomo argued that such ties could "harm their corporate reputations and jeopardize public safety."
In an email to NPR, the NRA said pressure from regulators amounts to a blacklisting effort. "The NRA has encountered serious difficulties obtaining corporate insurance coverage," the email said. "If insurers remain afraid to transact with the NRA, there is a substantial risk that NRA TV will be forced to cease operating."
The NRA says it has 5 million members, and USA Today reports the organization takes in an annual average of $128 million in donations. 
In 2018, the group set fundraising records, and the NRA Political Victory fund took in $2.4 million in donations during the month of March alone, according to The Washington Post. 
HuffPost reports the NRA typically receives spikes in donations in the wake of mass shootings. After the Parkland school shooting earlier this year, Salon reports donations to the organization increased by nearly 500 percent, compared with the week prior to the tragedy. 
A lot of that money goes toward backing politicians that support the gun lobby. In 2016, the NRA spent $61 million backing current members of Congress, and President Trump received $31 million in advertising from the NRA during his campaign, according to USA Today
In recent years, the NRA has expanded its media outreach, distributing highly-produced videos promoting gun ownership over the Internet and cable.   
Over the past week, protesters have gathered to march against gun violence. On Thursday in Chicago, activists demonstrated over a recent spike in homicides, according to The Independent. USA Today reports that on Friday, during a visit to western Kentucky, Oliver North, the incoming president of the NRA, was met by both "an enthusiastic welcome" and protesters who shouted, "Shame!" 
Survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., organized a demonstration for Saturday outside the headquarters of the NRA in Virginia. 
The Washington Post reports that the "teens will be joined by activists, protesters and survivors of gun violence to protest the NRA's role in blocking gun-control legislation and defending sales of guns such as the AR-15, the semiautomatic rifle used in the Parkland, Fla., massacre."
Lawrence Nathaniel, 25, executive director of the National Organization for Change, told The Washington Post, "The NRA has the ability to be the organization that fights for Second Amendment rights while also fighting to protect each and every American citizen, but they choose not to. They would rather threaten and antagonize us than sit down and talk about how we can work together to make sure every American has a quality and safe life."

July 24, 2017

Interview with NY Sen.Gillibrand: on Trump, "I Would Fire Him"

America did not get its first female president in 2016, but that doesn’t mean women have stopped flexing their political muscle. High on that list of power politicos is U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who, talking with Katie Couric on Saturday, leaned into the discussion of the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump. If he fires special counsel Robert Mueller, that would “reach a whole other level of ridiculousness that I think stops everything,” the New York Democrat said, speaking before a home state crowd at OZY Fest in Central Park.

 Then again, the UCLA-trained lawyer already thinks there’s a case for obstruction of justice after Trump canned James Comey, in part for his handling of the Russian investigation. For that, “I’d fire him,” Gillibrand said of Trump, although she admitted it would be up to Mueller to prove obstruction of justice. That was just one of the points made in Couric’s wide-ranging interview with Gillibrand, who, coming from a town hall in the Bronx, said the concerns of her constituents were fresh in her mind. “Not surprisingly, they are really worried about this health care bill,” she said, adding that so-called Trumpcare has been delayed only because of grassroots pressure. “The message is: Don’t stop!” 
“We built Obamacare on the for-profit system. If you really want to get prices down, you need a single payer,” Gillibrand said when Couric asked how to improve the Affordable Care Act without scrapping it. “No,” she responded unequivocally when asked if Republicans in Congress would back off recent, unpopular proposals on such issues as health care and immigration without external pressure, adding that only constituents and advocates could “give them courage.” And when Couric noted that Emily’s List has counted at least 11,000 women who have expressed interest in running for elected office since Trump became president, Gillibrand said that women shouldn’t be afraid of being unqualified for the task. “I felt the same way — not smart enough, not tough enough, not experienced. It’s not about you. It’s about what you want to fix.”
That doesn’t mean it will be easy for women going forward. When Couric asked if misogyny still exists significantly on Capitol Hill, Gillibrand quipped: “Is the sky blue?” It was an issue Gillibrand tackled in her book, Off the Sidelines, in which she documented comments made to her about her weight and appearance while walking the halls of Congress.
In addition to leading the passage of a health care bill for 9/11 first responders and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policies, Gillibrand has been an ardent advocate of creating more accountability around sexual assaults in the armed forces — a cause that hasn’t gone far enough yet, she admits. She compared it to other attempts to reform what she calls “closed institutions,” such as the NFL dealing with athletes who engage in domestic abuse or the Catholic Church trying to weed out pedophile priests. “It takes all that much more effort to speak truth to power, get the stories out, but also create the consensus and move the mountain of actually getting laws changed,” she says. The rate of retaliation against women and men who report sexual assaults in the military is still 59 percent, Gillibrand said, while only 2 in 10 assaults are reported as crimes. The conviction rate in such cases is even more dismal. 
The question of the Democratic Party’s future hovered in the air, in part because many forecast Gillibrand as one of the party’s standard-bearers in 2020. While she refused to talk about a potential presidential run, she did push back against the idea that progressive politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were steering the party in an untenable direction. “President Trump ran on the [platform that] the system is rigged, which is Liz Warren’s message, and no bad trade deals, which was Bernie Sanders’ message,” she argued.
Continuing the populist theme, Gillibrand talked about education reform. “Why shouldn’t all federal student loans be refinanced at 4 percent?” she asked. And while her mentor Hillary Clinton didn’t become Madam President in November, the losing candidate has inspired the next generation of politicians. “She’s put the fire in the belly in so many women to come after her, to run, to win,” Gillibrand said. “I feel like we are so poised to fight harder than we ever have before.”
  • Nick Fouriezos, OZY Author

June 16, 2017

Gov. Cuomo Nominates First Openly Gay Justice to NY Highest Court


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named the first openly gay judge to New York’s highest court.

Cuomo has nominated Paul Feinman, an appellate court judge and LGBT rights advocate, to fill a vacancy on the New York State Court of Appeals. During an interview on the cable news station NY1, Cuomo praised Feinman’s abilities.

“[He] is an extraordinary human being,” Cuomo said. “And would be a great addition to that court.”

Gay rights advocates have urged Cuomo to appoint an openly gay judge to the court, which often deals with LGBT issues.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), the only openly gay member of that chamber, called Feinman a “historic and inspired candidate.”

If he’s confirmed by the state Senate, Feinman would replace Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who died earlier this year in what police said was likely a suicide.

May 18, 2017

New York is Close to Having Universal Health Care

On May 4, House Republicans celebrated the narrow passage of a messy healthcare bill few of them apparently read, despite the promise that it will kill tens of thousands of their constituents in the unfortunate event that it makes it through the Senate. Here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo was quick to release a forceful 175-word statement condemning the American Health Care Act as a law passed by “ultraconservatives” that would “tear apart our healthcare system.”

Village voice Story
Luckily for Cuomo and the nearly 20 million of us who live here, there’s a readily available solution that would rescue us from this hell: the New York Health Act, which would give every New Yorker access to state-funded coverage. And the best part? It’s as close as it’s ever been to becoming a law.
The bill was originally proposed by Assembly Member Richard Gottfried in 1992 and has passed in that chamber a total of three times, most recently in 2016. As the Voice reported in January, the plan would finance a universal health care expansion through progressive taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers and save money on pharmaceuticals by buying them in bulk. Coverage would resemble that of Medicaid and Medicare and include services like eye care and dental.
Critics have protested that single-payer is not the health panacea its proponents make it out to be. Bill Hammond, the health policy director at Empire Center, an Albany-based think tank, warned that other countries with single-payer plans, like the United Kingdom and Canada, “have long waiting times to see specialists, pay their doctors and nurses significantly less, and, in some cases, ration access to expensive procedures and drugs.”
 Yet there is no evidence to uphold the substance of these concerns and plenty that directly refutes them, said Gerald Friedman, the department chair of the University of Massachusetts at Amhert’s economics program, who in 2015 authored a 56-page analysis of the NYHA. As the Voice wrote previously, Friedman contends that the act would reduce total health care costs in the state by about 25 percent — more than $70 billion out of $287 billion for 2019. New York is currently home to at least 1.3 million uninsured residents who would gain coverage under the act, in addition to the 2.7 million whose insurance would likely be threatened by an ACA rollback.
As for the fear of rationed access, Friedman told the Voice that “the current system already involves rationing — New Yorkers are rationed by lack of health insurance.” He says 20 percent of New Yorkers are unable to visit the doctor because of high copays and deductibles. Under the NYHA, “all of those people would have equal access.”
Additionally, doctors currently squander much of their time filling out forms for the insurance industry — time that under a single-payer system would be spent seeing patients. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent each year on insurance-related expenses, Friedman said, adding that across the country, hospitals have more people employed for billing and insurance than they do beds. This stripping-away of cumbersome bureaucracy would likely drive more doctors to practice in New York, thus driving down wait times.
“All those resources that go to billing and insurance would go to patient practice,” Friedman said. “If it’s the same dollar, doctors would rather make that dollar dealing with patients than with insurance.”
Katie Robbins, the executive director of Physicians for a National Health Program’s New York metro chapter, agreed that not only will the conversion to a single-payer system actually save the state money, it will also benefit providers and patients greatly. She told the Voice that doctors in countries with single-payer systems often make more money than doctors here because bloated insurance costs aren’t eating into their margins. Plus, she said, polling shows that the majority of physicians would rather practice in a single-payer environment.
For patients on public insurance plans, wait times are already egregiously long, Robbins said. Universal coverage would allow doctors to accept everyone equally. “Right now if you’re on public health insurance, the reimbursement rates are lower, and it’s harder to find physicians,” she said. Under the NYHA, “we could organize that system to accommodate the patient population, and it wouldn’t be about tiered access to care.”
Assuming the NYHA passes the assembly for the fourth time — that vote is scheduled for today, May 16 [update: It passed] — it will be introduced in the Senate by Gustavo Rivera. “Every day we’re understanding a little bit better the fact that we’re going to have to do more at the state level to defend all sorts of populations that are vulnerable,” Rivera told the Voice. “We’re talking about people’s health care and the fact that the national administration is trying to take it away.”
Currently, the bill is only two votes shy of passing in the 63-seat state senate. It recently picked up the support of the influential Independent Democratic Conference, buoying its number of supporters to 30.
A special election on May 23 to fill an assembly seat vacated by now-councilmember Bill Perkins is all but guaranteed to go to real estate developer Brian Benjamin, who has vowed to support the bill, Rivera told the Voice. The only hurdles now include the conversion of just one more holdout — the most likely target is Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans — plus a small pile of procedural battles. Felder, who told the Guardian in April that he had no position on the bill, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails from the Voice.
When and if the 32 votes are confirmed, the bill would head to both the health committee and the fiscal committee, in what’s known as a dual reference. It would then have to age for three days, meaning it must undergo a first, second, and third reading. Only then may it go to a floor vote.
Rivera cautioned against excessive optimism that the initiative will be voted on in the short term. “Those are all very, very tall orders for the short time period that we have this year,” he said. “I’m of the mind that you have to take this one step at a time, and so that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

March 28, 2017

Men Who Seem Gay R Entrapment Prey For Port Authority Cops

Port Authority cops target men who seem gay or androgynous and arrest them on false charges of public masturbation and exposure at the city’s bus terminal, a new class-action lawsuit claims.

The cops have been falsely arresting men for years to increase “quality of life” arrest statistics, says the suit, which was filed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday.

Cops spy on men who seems “gay or non-gender conforming” through the slats in the privacy dividers in the man’s bathroom and then lie and say that the men are touching themselves, according to the suit and plaintiff attorney Ross Kramer.

“It’s an absolutely unacceptable use of police power,” said Kramer. “They go into public restrooms and have plainclothed officer stare at people and then accuse men who they believe to be gay of engaging in lewd behavior. It pads their arrests stats by preying on a vulnerable group of people.”

One man who was arrested says he even heard other officers congratulate the cop who busted him, calling him “the gay whisperer” because of the large amount of seemingly homosexual men he cuffed.

The Port Authority cops look for men who seem gay or effeminate based on the way they carried themselves or clothing or jewelry believed to be “non-masculine,” the suit says.

The practice goes back to at least 2004, when Port Authority cops arrested Alejandro Martinez, accusing him of masturbating in public. Martinez was found not guilty and was awarded “substantial damages,” but the cops still continue the practice of arresting men for lewdness without probable cause, said Kramer.

“We want an injunction against this unlawful and unconstitutional practice that’s been going on for years,” said Kramer.

The attorneys are still collecting evidence, but they believe that “many, many men” have been targeted for false arrest by Port Authority cops, said Kramer.

Port Authority police spokesman Joe Pentangelo declined to comment on the suit, saying the agency doesn’t talk about pending cases.

October 17, 2016

Rochester, NY Perfect Score for Non Discrimination

 By the looks on this picture it looks like a big city with the typical resident on a big city. Too smart and too cold. Not Rochester! The city is cold in the winter but the people are the warmest, polite, educated people.

Rochester received a perfect score Monday from a prominent national gay-rights group for the city's non-discrimination policies.

The 100 score for the city was the third year in a row it has received the top ranking from the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington D.C.-based advocacy group.

The group is pushing cities to install stronger anti-discrimination laws, scoring 506 cities across the nation, including 10 in New York.

The average score for cities in New York was 87 out of 100 points. The national average was 55.

[[ When my company gave me a choice of a few cities were they were moving in and my choice of which one would I have to pick to open a new outlet, I asked for Rochester because I wanted to stay in New York State, knowing that New Yorkers tend to be go getters and hard workers. Even outside of New York City. I ask other managers if that sense was true for upstate New York and others thought the same way. So Rochester it was and I found myself in a small city with a strong grass roots community in civil affairs and proud motivated gay residents. I never expected to find a gay bar yet there were several, nor did I expect gay couples yet I found many that did not seem to be too concern about what people thought. Couples that had been together for many years. As a matter of fact everybody seemed to be partnered just like I was at the time.  The single ones seemed to be closeted or transplants from other places.

The residents of this town are extra nice particularly if you come from a big city like NYC but finding gays born there and also transplanted there attracted by this beautiful city with its small but interesting work-thriving downtown area. There were guys from cities along the notheast and even from Puerto Rico which surprised me plenty. I am glad to see they still maintain that good sense of community and good gay neighborly ways. I am sure there are girls too but my experience was with guys. I still think how much fun I had in that little town. I even made it to the Jerry Lewis Telethon and was on TV to give a check from my company. I never forget coming back home after a night out on a snowy sunday evening. As I was cutting thru the center of town trying to avoid the thruway because of the snow I got a flat tired by hitting the side of the sidewalk making a turn which I did not see because of the snow collected there. A police car approached with blue lights on. I figured he saw me make the turn (there was a left turn sign which I did not see) and now was a ticket time. The police officer was about my age, which made him young and was very neighborly and polite. Trying to make conversation and trying to give an excuse I told him I was new in town and I did not know the roads too well. I gave him a business card so he would know I was no bs’ him. He ask me for the tools to change the tired and started changing the tire himself. I felt so bad I told him not to bother, he said I was well dressed and he did not want me to get dirty. I never had a better encounter with a cop nor with another motorist ever before nor after as far as that is concern. That was Rochester. I was only there less than a year before they send me to Buffalo. I always miss Rochester and proud to have lived there.  Adam Gonzalez, Publisher]]
"I’m not surprised that the city of Rochester was able to score a full 100. The city has a long history of really doing the right thing on behalf of the LGBTQ community, and in making sure the right systems are in place," said Scott Fearing, executive director of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley.

LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and either queer or questioning. Queer used to be considered a derogatory term, but the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that lobbies for LGBT rights told USA Today in 2015 that people now use the term because it is not specific to sexual orientation or gender identity and is more of an umbrella term that can encompass a lot of people.

There have been times that the Gay Alliance, one of the nation's oldest LGBTQ advocacy groups, had to help prod the city government forward. It took months of lobbying before the city agreed to extend benefits to domestic partners, as it did in 1994, and to improve police relations with the gay and lesbian communities. The group also had to sue in the early 1990s to force the city to accept its nonprofit status.

Fast-forward to recent times. "I have been very impressed with the city in all different aspects, in all different departments. We have good relations with the police," said  Fearing, who has worked with the Gay Alliance for seven years and been executive director for three.

Rochester was one of four cities in New York to get a perfect score and one of 60 nationally.

Albany, New York City and Yonkers were the others in the state. Buffalo got a 95, and Syracuse received a 94.

“This year, dozens of cities across the nation showed they are willing to stand up for LGBTQ people in their communities even when some state governments are not,” Chad Griffin, the Human Rights Campaign president, said in a statement.

In 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature legalized same-sex marriage, the largest state at the time to do so.

After opposition in the Republican-led Senate, Cuomo took executive action last year to put in place regulations to protect transgender New Yorkers from discrimination.

The report said that in many states, however, local governments and cities have more progressive laws on gay rights.

The group deducted points from cities that have laws prohibiting individuals from "using public facilities consistent with their gender identity" and added points "to recognize cities that are offering transgender-specific city services."

Rochester fared well because of its non-discrimination laws; "transgender-inclusive insurance coverage;" elected gay officials, as well as a LGBTQ liaison in the city.

One of the main differences between Rochester and its other upstate cities is that Rochester has a LGBTQ police liaison or task force, which Buffalo did not, the report said.

The other difference is that Syracuse didn't reported 2014 Hate Crimes statistics to the FBI, while Rochester did, according to the report.

Fearing noted the state Senate's refusal to pass the transgender non-discrimination law, and said it might be helpful for Monroe County to adopt such a measure. He said the county government generally has not been supportive of LGBTQ rights, and a decade ago engaged in a high-profile legal fight to deny benefits to same-sex spouses of county employees who had been married in other states before New York legalized such unions.

"Maybe we need to try to get the County Legislature to look at transgender protections," Fearing said. "We hear from them regularly, (transgender) people who are neither employed in nor citizens of the city of Rochester proper."

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren also cited the city's traditions in response to the latest ratings.

“Rochester has a long history of being a diverse and welcoming city,” Warren said. “I think Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are proudly looking down at us, knowing that when it comes to modern day issues of equality and social justice, the city that they loved still leads the way. I would like to thank the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for recognizing Rochester as a city that values equality.”

Joseph Spector is chief of USA TODAY Network’s Albany Bureau. 

If you are reading this in Rochester, just say hi on the comments. Alright?

June 25, 2016

When Gay Marriage Came to New York 5yrs Ago

 Gov.Cuomo proudly signs NYS Gay Marriage into Law

 Five years ago, Michael Sabatino spent day after day in the dark and humid halls of the state Capitol pressing for the state legislature to legalize same-sex marriage.

On one side of the hall outside the Senate chambers were gay-rights supporters. On other side, religious groups urged senators to vote no.

When the bill was approved June 24, 2011, Sabatino and other gay-right activists in the Senate chamber broke into cheers and tears, with chants of “USA, USA” spontaneously breaking out in the chamber.

“The feeling of having fought for that at that point for 11 or 12 years, it was just an exhilarating feeling,” said Sabatino, now a Yonkers city councilman, who led a lawsuit seeking gay-marriage rights in New York.

Five years after New York became the largest state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, the Senate vote that late Friday night still resonates across the state with gay couples who have gotten married.

The vote carries extra meaning, too: A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the nation, and just two weeks ago, an Orlando shooter killed 49 people at a gay club.

“It’s a reminder that there’s still work to do — that our community still needs to remain vigilant,” said Scott Fearing, executive director of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley.

“We need to keep safety issues in our mind, because the work isn’t all done.”

June is also Gay Pride Month, and the PrideFest parade is Sunday in Manhattan.

Outside New York City, at least 10,000 same-sex couples were married between 2012 and 2014, records from the state Health Department showed, representing nearly 6 percent of the total marriages in the state over those three years.

The number of gay marriages spiked at 4,031 in 2013 and dropped to 3,193 in 2014. There were 2,796 in 2012, the records showed.

New York marriage licenses do not require people to write down their sex, so the same-sex marriage figures aren’t exact.

Fight in Albany

New York was the sixth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, and many others soon followed.

But getting New York there was a fight, and it remains one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature moments of his six-year tenure as governor so far. The bill initially failed in 2009 in the Senate.

The Democratic governor was able to persuade four Republican senators to vote in favor of the bill, giving it the 33 votes to pass the 62-seat chamber controlled by the GOP. The Democratic-led Assembly had easily passed the measure for several years.

There was political fallout: All four of the Republicans subsequently lost their seats over the next few years.

Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, Monroe County, decided not to seek re-election in 2012, and Sen. Stephen Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, lost in a three-way race that November.

Sens. Roy McDonald, of Saratoga, and Mark Grisanti, of Buffalo, also would later lose re-election bids.

Rarely in Albany has a vote carried such suspense: Typically, bills are brought to the floor of the Assembly and Senate predetermined to pass.

With the same-sex marriage vote, it wasn’t clear the bill would pass to just moments before Saland spoke on the Senate floor and expressed his support.

“It was a real statesmen thing for many of the legislators who stepped up to the plate and said, ‘What’s right is right, and we need to act on it,’” said Frederic Mayo, who heads the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, based in Kingston.

Saland reiterated Tuesday he’s proud of his vote.

“It was an extraordinary moment — unlike any I had witnessed in my 30-plus years in the legislature,” he recalled.

After losing re-election, he essentially retired from politics, except for some part-time consulting work. He was named Friday to the state Thruway Authority board.

“I look back at that point and place in time with enormous pride,” Saland said. “And if I had to do it all over again, even well-knowing the consequences, I would have done the exact same thing.”

Some businesses have sought to attract gay couples and weddings to their venues. The Rochester visitor’s association has ads that try to reach gay couples and families, for example.

“We really see ourselves as the place for LGBT families to visit,” said Rachel Laber, spokeswoman for Visit Rochester.

Couples recall marriage

Wanda Martinez-Johncox, 37, recalled growing up in Puerto Rico and wondering if she’s ever be able to get married.

But after moving to Rochester as an adult and meeting her spouse a year ago, she was able to fulfill her dream.

“When it was passed, it was very exciting because I never thought I would get married. It was a step forward,” she said.

Other gay couples offered similar sentiments.

Lance Ringel, 64, of Poughkeepsie, had been with his husband for 25 years when same-sex marriage in New York passed.

They got married in New York two months after the law was on the books.

“When you’ve been together that long in some ways, it felt to us that it was going to be an afterthought,” Ringel said. “But it was really a positive experience — both for us and seemingly everyone who came. They still talk about it.”

Richard Skipper, 55, and his husband, Daniel Sherman, 62, of Sparkill, Rockland County, were one of the first 100 people to get married at Manhattan City Clerk’s office on the first day same-sex marriage was recognized in New York.

Skipper said he and his husband, who have been together for 26 years, saw the New York bill as an opportunity to finally receive equal spousal benefits, among other things.

The law gave equal rights to gay couples, affording them the same rights as straight couples, such as when it comes to health insurance, hospital visiting rights and income taxes.

“It sheds a light and an awareness of the fact that, for the most part, we are just like any other married couple,” Skipper said. “We deal with the same issues ...We have the same ups and downs that any other couple has had.”

Gay-rights groups in New York said they are still fighting for some rights in New York, such as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act that hasn’t passed the Republican-led Senate.

Opponents of gay marriages, particularly conservative groups, continue to lobby at the Capitol to block additional measures.

As a result, Cuomo last fall put into statewide regulations a measure that prohibits harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender identity, transgender status or gender dysphoria.

“New York has always been a beacon for the country on LGBT rights,” Cuomo said in a statement at the time. “We started the movement at Stonewall, we led the way with marriage equality, and now we are continuing to show the nation the path forward.”

Also, the massacre in Orlando offered a stark reminder that equal rights is an ongoing battle, said Scott Havelka, director of programs at the The LOFT: LGBT Community Services Center in White Plains.

“In times of tragedy the LGBT community has always come together to show its resilience,” he said in a statement. “We see this resilience now as we gather for local vigils, raise funds for the survivors, and renew our commitments to visibly demonstrate the many facets of our community pride. Orlando will make us stronger as a community.”

Joseph Spector, | @gannettalbany

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