Category Archives: Justice Agenda

As US World Cup Champions Get Keys to City, Rapinoe Issues Challenge: ‘It’s Our Responsibility to Make this World a Better Place’

US Women’s National Team celebrated with a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes in honor of their 2019 World Cup victory © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

They came in incontrovertible triumph, a study in strength, talent, perseverance, grit, discipline – celebrated role models for girls and women everywhere. True champions, the US Women’s National Team battled on the to become four-time World Cup Champions, winning two consecutive titles, pitch as well as off, their fight for equal pay elevated to national politics.

Just before stepping off for their ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes through New York’s financial district to City Hall where they would receive the Keys to the City from Mayor Bill De Blasio, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law prohibiting unequal pay on the basis of a protected class for all substantially similar work and forbidding employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history. He also called on U.S. Soccer to pay the women’s national team the same as the men’s national team

“There is no rationale why women should not get paid what men get paid. These are women’s soccer players, they play the same game as the men’s soccer players, and they play it better – so if there is any economic rationale, the men should get paid less than the women,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York will continue to lead the way forward and stand in solidarity with women and girls in every corner of this state. By signing this legislation, we are not only doing the right thing, we are also doing the moral thing and equal pay for equal work is now the law in the State of New York.”

There were signs calling for “Equal Pay,” but few chants could be heard over the squeals of delight when the 2019 World Cup Champions came into view.

US Women’s National Team celebrated with a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes in honor of their 2019 World Cup victory © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

During the parade, US Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro was all smiles, and when it was his turn to come to the stage – greeted by chants of “Equal Pay, Equal Pay” – was conciliatory, suggesting that prayers – or rather, the court case – would be answered to the women’s satisfaction.

“To our Women’s National Team and the millions who support them, in recent months, you’ve raised your voices for equality.  Today, on behalf of all of us at U.S. Soccer, I want to say, we hear you, we believe in you and we’re committed to doing right by you.

“That’s why, over the years—from our development programs to our youth national teams to our professional leagues to our women’s national team—U.S. Soccer has invested more in women’s soccer than any other country in the world.  We will continue to invest more in women’s soccer than any country in the world.  And we will continue to encourage others, including FIFA, to do the same.

“We believe that all female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay.  Together, we can get this done.

“Because as this team has taught us all, being the greatest isn’t just about how you play on the field, it’s about what you stand for off the field.  It’s about who we are—as a sport and as a country.  The 2019 Women’s World Cup Champions!  The United States of America!  One Nation, One Team!  Go USA!”

US Women’s National Team celebrated with a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes in honor of their 2019 World Cup victory © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Then Megan Rapinoe came to the stage, a glittering star among stars not just for winning the Golden Boot for most goals and the Golden Ball as the tournament’s most valuable player and co-captaining the team to their victory, but for her bold stand for equal pay, for social justice (she was one of the few athletes who knelt in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick), and her rejection of any invitation by Donald Trump to visit the White House, prompting his twitter ire.

She went out of her way to express appreciation to Cordeiro. “Thank you, you were incredible during the World Cup….. everyone gets booed in a position of power. I will stick my neck out, endorse Carlos. I think he’s on the right side of things. I think he will make things right…”

US Women’s National Team celebrated with a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes in honor of their 2019 World Cup victory © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Her speech, delivered on the City Hall steps extemporaneously and without notes, was a call to action, and a call to come together.

“This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better, we have to love more, hate less, listen more, talk less, we got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility – every single person here, every single person who’s not here, every single person who doesn’t want to be here, who agrees and doesn’t agree, it’s our responsibility to make this world a better place.

“I think this team does an incredible job of taking that on our shoulders, and understanding the position we have and the platform we have in this world.  Yes we play sports, yes we play soccer, yes we’re female athletes, but we’re so much more than that. You’re so much more than that. You’re more than a fan who supports sports, who tunes in every four years. You’re someone who works these streets every single day, you  interact with your community every day. How do you make your community better, how do you make the people around you better, your family, your closest friends, the 10 closets people, the hundred closest people to you. It’s every single person’s responsibility

US Women’s National Team celebrated with a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes in honor of their 2019 World Cup victory © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“There’s been so much contention in these last years. I’ve been a victim of that. I’ve been a perpetrator of that. If I’ve (hurt) the Federation  sorry for some of the things I’ve said – not all the things. But it’s time to come together. This conversation is at the next step. We have to collaborate. It takes everybody.

US Women’s National Team celebrated with a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes in honor of their 2019 World Cup victory © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“This is my charge to everybody: Do what you can. Do what you have to do. Step outside yourself. Be more, be better, be bigger, be better than you ever have been before. If this team is a representation of what you can be when you do that, please take that as an example. This group is incredible. We took so much on our shoulders to be here with you today, to celebrate with you today. And we did it with a smile. So do the same for us.”

Then she ended with classic, mischievous outrageousness: “New York City! You the mother-[expletive] best!!!”

US Women’s National Team celebrated with a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes in honor of their 2019 World Cup victory © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Record Numbers Turn Out for WorldPride NYC 2019, A Celebration of Pride & Joy

WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

They came together in celebration, not anger or fear. The common thread among the 150,000 who marched, coming from around the world and across the country, and the estimated 2.5 million who watched along the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade route: Free to be me.

The parade, which took eight hours to complete and was estimated to be the largest Pride event in history, was particularly poignant, honoring the 50th anniversary since the Stonewall Uprising, which are considered the trigger to the modern LGBTQ movement.

WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Jim Foray, among the Grand Marshals at the parade, was there that night. He was living just a block away and recalled the Stonewall as a “sleazy bar where we were grateful and exploited.” The bar, reputedly owned by the Mafia, was regularly raided by the police.

WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

What a difference 50 years has made, noted Julian Sanjivan, NYC Pride March Director. “They had no way of knowing what the next 50 years would bring, no way to know they were starting a global movement, changing hearts and minds everywhere.” And who could have expected an openly gay and married man, a mayor from South Bend, Indiana, Peter Buttigieg, running for President.

Fear and loathing has given way to pride and joy.

WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Five Grand Marshals lead both the 50th NYC Pride March: the cast of POSE, represented by Dominique Jackson (Elektra), Indya Moore (Angel), and MJ Rodriguez (Blanca); Phyll Opoku-Gyimah; Gay Liberation Front; The Trevor Project and Monica Helms.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is the nucleus of the award-winning celebration and protest that is UK Black Pride. Widely known as Lady Phyll – partly due to her decision to reject an MBE in the New Year’s Honours’ list, to protest Britain’s role in formulating anti-LGBTQ+ penal codes across its empire – she is a senior official at the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union as the Head of Equality and Learning. She’s a community builder and organizer; a Kaleidoscope Trust Trustee; an Albert Kennedy Trust patron; Diva Magazine columnist, and public speaker focusing on race, gender, sexuality and class.

WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gay Liberation Front was the very first LGBTQ activist organization formed after the Stonewall Rebellion. The courageous members of GLF fought to give political shape and direction to a whole new generation of LGBTQ militancy that spread with unprecedented vigor and impact across the nation and the world.  

WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. The organization works to save young lives by providing support through free and confidential programs, including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat. They also run TrevorSpace, the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth, and operate innovative education, research, and advocacy programs.

Monica Helms is a transgender activist, author, and veteran of the United States Navy, having served on two submarines. She is also the creator of the Transgender Pride Flag, in 1999, and subsequently donated the original flag to the Smithsonian Institution in 2014.

WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It was indeed a demonstration of world pride – there were marchers from Copenhagen, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Portugal, Australia, Holland, and so many other places.

American cities and states were represented as well, from coast to coast and in between – from Palm Beach and Orlando to Palm Springs, San Francisco and Venice (California), Austin to Washington DC, Brooklyn, Boston, even Native American tribes.

Here are highlights from the WorldPride NYC 2019:

WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Austin Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Capital Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Boston Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Brooklyn Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Orlando Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Palm Springs Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Ft. Lauderdale Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Houston Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Tampa Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Twin Cities Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Italian LGBTI Association. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Bologna Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Germany. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
United Kingdom. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Portugal Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Amsterdam Pride. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Blackfeet Nation. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Celebrating 43 years. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Paying homage to Gilbert Baker, founder of the Rainbow flag WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Paying homage to Gilbert Baker, founder of the Rainbow flag WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
What a difference 50 years make. WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WorldPride NYC 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

A clear sign of the changing times was the outpouring of elected and government officials who joined the march. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense, a key component of his 2019 Justice Agenda,.

See also:

At WorldPride NYC Parade, NYS Governor Cuomo Signs Law Banning Gay, Trans Panic Legal Defense

See next: Officials Join WorldPride NYC Parade 2019

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

At WorldPride NYC Parade, NYS Governor Cuomo Signs Law Banning Gay, Trans Panic Legal Defense

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense (S3293/A2707), fulfilling his pledge to ensure nobody uses this abhorrent legal defense strategy in the State of New York. The Governor signed the measure, a key component of his 2019 Justice Agenda, on WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. The Governor also vowed to double down next legislative session on his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy, which the Assembly failed to take up this year.

“The gay and trans panic defense is essentially a codification of homophobia and transphobia, and it is repugnant to our values of equality and inclusion,” Governor Cuomo said at a press conference on the street before joining the parade. “This defense strategy isn’t just offensive – it also sends a dangerous message that violence toward LGBTQ people is somehow OK. It’s not, and today we’re sending this noxious legal tool to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”

At a press conference before joining the parade, Governor Cuomo said, “What a great, great day this is. New York is so proud. New York is so, so, so proud to host WorldPride. 

“New Yorkers are just New Yorkers. Look, all New Yorkers should be very proud because New York has always been the home of the LGBTQ equality movement, always. It all started here. It started at Stonewall, it started when we hosted the first Pride Day ever. And we’ve kept that legacy alive. This is the leading State in the United States of America for LGBTQ equality. And we don’t just say it, we do it. We prove it here in New York.

“What was the first state to address AIDS and announce the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic? New York. What was the first state to end discrimination against transgender people? New York. What was the first big state to pass marriage equality and send a message across the nation? New York. What was the first state to pass GENDA and end discrimination against transgender people? New York. What was the first state to ban conversion therapy? New York.

“And today, we’re going to sign a bill that ends the codification of homophobia. Because we have now as a law in this state, something called the gay and trans panic defense. That a person can argue – they were so emotionally disturbed when they found out a person was gay or trans that that is actually a justification or an excuse for murder. Not in this state. We are going to – not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. And we are going to end the gay and transpanic defense and we are going to do it right now. I will sign this now and end this law. It is now over.

“Congratulations, New York. Let’s lead once again.”

The gay and trans panic defenses allow those accused of violent crimes against LGBTQ people to receive a lesser sentence, and in some cases, avoid conviction, by placing the blame on a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The passage of this bill would close a loophole in state law that currently allows individuals to use the gay and trans panic defenses after attacking another person based upon a perception, or discovery of, that victim’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Senator Brad Hoylman said,”By banning the so-called gay and trans panic defense, New York is sending a message to prosecutors, defense attorneys, juries and judges that a victim’s LGBTQ identity shouldn’t be weaponized against them. I’m proud to be a member of a legislature that protects the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers and thank Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assemblymember O’Donnell for their leadership on this critical issue. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, I am extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing this critical piece of legislation into law and look forward to continuing to work with him to make New York a more inclusive, equitable home for the LGBTQ community.”

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo was joined at the WorldPride 2019 parade by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chris Quinn, Randi Weingarten, Adriano Espaillat, Jim Gaughran, Jen Metzger, David Weprin, Amy Paulin. Chad Griffin, Alphonso David, Counsel to the Governor, State Senator Brad Hoylman, who’s been a champion, Kristen Browde, Dolores Nettles, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, as well as Cuomo’s three daughters Cara, Mariah, Michaela. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Delores Nettles said, “In 2013, my daughter Islan was killed in Harlem for being who she was. Her attacker used the discriminatory ‘trans panic’ defense. I am so grateful that New York is banning this legislation so that no mother has to go through this again. We must keep fighting so that all trans people can live free from violence and discrimination. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for advocating tirelessly for this bill and for signing it into law today.”

“Banning the “gay and trans panic” defense in New York is an important and long overdue step toward treating the LGBTQ community equitably,” Ethan Rice, Senior Attorney, Fair Courts Project at Lambda Legal. “LGBTQ people in New York should never have to experience violence. When it happens, LGBTQ people certainly should not be faced with blame for this violence. These “defenses” have no place in our justice system. Lambda Legal commends the Governor for signing this bill today and for his ongoing advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community.”

NYC’s Pride Center celebrating at WorldPride NYC 2019. There was much to celebrate: Governor Cuomo had just signed legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Glennda Testone, Executive Director of NYC’s LGBT Community Center said, “New York State government has taken another great step in the right direction, legally halting some enduring elements of homophobia and transphobia ingrained in our society. After establishing marriage equality, passing GENDA and ending conversion therapy in our state, Governor Cuomo showed that he is not done fighting for LGBTQ equality, and neither are we. We thank him for taking the gay and trans panic defense out of New York’s court system and for his commitment to equal rights for all people.”  

“Using an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender as a defense for violent behavior is abhorrent and will not stand in the State of New York,” Harlem Pride and The NYC Black and Latino LGBTQ Coalition said. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership and dedication to protecting the LGBTQ community and closing the legal loophole keeping this archaic practice in place.”

Guillermo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS and founder of Hispanic Health Network said,”As we celebrate LGBT Pride and the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising we recognize that outlawing the gay and trans panic defense is long overdue in New York.  We appreciate that this legislation will be signed to ensure this can never happen again and that people impacted by homophobia and transphobia are no longer taking the blame for this antiquated loophole. We thank Governor Cuomo for advancing this important issue and I look forward to him signing this law to increase protections for the LGBTQ community.”

Rod Townsend, Community Leader said, “A person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is never a justifiable reason for violent attack, and Governor Cuomo closes the loophole in state law that allowed for it in cases of first degree murder today.  We look forward to seeing justice for individuals impacted by these crime and will fight to further limit the use of this appalling “blame the victim” strategy in cases of violence against LGBTQ people everywhere.”

Amanda Babine, Director of Policy & Programs at the New York Transgender Advocacy Group said,”Banning the ‘gay and trans panic’ defense was a huge win for the LGBTQI community, especially for our Transgender, Gender-Non-Conforming, & Non-Binary siblings. This year alone, ten Transgender women of color have been found dead, one right here in New York. The New York Transgender Advocacy Group stands with pride next to Governor Cuomo as he continues to be a champion for the LGBTQI community here in New York State.”

Brooke Malloy, Executive Director, Rockland County Pride Center said, “New Yorkers do not tolerate hate. We are a state of love and inclusion, and hold firm to our belief in equality for every person. The fact that there ever was a legal defense for crimes committed against the LGBTQ community, specifically based on their actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation is disgusting. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in ending this abhorrent law, and for always speaking up and protecting LGBTQ New Yorkers.”

Kelly Metzgar, Executive Director, Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance said,”New York State prides itself on being an inclusive, progressive state, where every person can feel safe and welcome. With his work to end the gay and trans panic defense, Governor Cuomo continues to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, receives equal protection under New York State law. I wish to personally thank Governor Cuomo, on behalf of residents in the Adirondack North Country for his relentless work to defend the rights of all who call this beautiful state our home.”

Christopher Goodwin, Supervisor of The MOCHA Center Rochester said, “We at The MOCHA Center and Trillium Health applaud Governor Cuomo for taking swift, progressive action to protect and uphold the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. Thanks to his efforts, a dangerous loophole rooted in hate has been erased from our criminal justice system. The gay and trans panic defense should never have been allowed. LGBTQ New Yorkers are grateful that we can now feel safer knowing that we are one step closer to having our lives equally valued and represented under the law.”

Jeff Rindler, Executive Director, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center said, “This revision to our legal system has been long overdue. The human rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers are non-negotiable, and now this hateful excuse will no longer be a permissible defense for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, which are on the rise. For transgender women of color who experience higher rates of violence, this law is the next step in solidifying protections for our community. I applaud and thankGovernor Cuomo and all the advocates and legislators who worked tirelessly to pass this legislation.”

Kelsey Louie, CEO, GMHC said, “The beginning of the Stonewall rebellion was in New York City and it was in reaction to hate-fueled actions. Fifty years have passed since the beginning of our LGBT rights movement and New York has been a model for LGBT equality, setting a national standard that the rest of the country must follow. We thank Governor Cuomo for closing a loophole which permitted the murder of gay and trans New Yorkers due to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This ensures that justice will be served for LGBTQ New Yorkers who are the victims of homophobia and transphobia.”

Kristen Prata Browde, Board President, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and Co-Chair Board of Directors, National Trans Bar Association said,”This shows the kind of change that good government can and should bring. Banning the trans and gay panic defense is a huge step towards equality for LGBTQ New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo not only recognized the absurdity of giving someone a lesser sentence or even a pass after murdering someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, he fought hard for the ban. As the Governor signs the bill he is once again showing that New York truly is a beacon to the world and to every LGBTQ person.”

The Governor also released a new video for social media featuring Delores Nettles, the mother of Islan Nettles, a transgender woman who was brutally murdered in Harlem in 2013 and whose assailant used the gay and trans panic legal defense in court. Watch the video here.

Cuomo Takes Bow in Delivering on Justice Agenda, Calling Legislative Session ‘Most Productive in Modern Political History’

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo took a deserved bow in delivering on the Justice Agenda he laid out at his inauguration, calling this year’s Legislative Session “the most productive in modern political history.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo took a deserved bow in announcing historic progressive accomplishments during this year’s Legislative Session, delivering on his 2019 Justice Agenda first laid out in December, and calling it “the most productive in modern political history.”

“These sweeping reforms will ensure social and economic justice for all New Yorkers, address the devastating impact of climate change, support New York’s ongoing commitment to workers’ rights, modernize transportation systems across the state, and enhance the Empire State’s nation-leading commitment to gender equity and LGBTQ rights. All of this was done while enacting fiscally responsible policies including holding spending growth to 2 percent for the ninth consecutive year, enacting a permanent property tax cap and cutting taxes for the middle class,” the governor’s office stated.

“Six months ago we laid out our 2019 Justice Agenda – an aggressive blueprint to move New York forward – and today I’m proud to say we got it done,” Governor Cuomo said. “At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what you accomplish, and this was the most progressively productive legislative session in modern history. The product was extraordinary, and we maintained our two pillars – fiscal responsibility and economic growth paired with social progress on an unprecedented and nation-leading scale.”

Here’s a synopsis:

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act: This legislation enacts the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, creating the most aggressive climate change program in the nation with goals to: reach zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2040; install 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035; 6GW of solar by 2025; 3 GW of energy storage by 2030; and directs state entities to work toward a goal of investing 40 percent of clean energy and energy efficiency resources to benefit disadvantaged communities. Additionally, the law creates the Climate Action Council comprised of the leaders of various state agencies and authorities as well as legislative appointments to develop a plan outlining how the state will achieve an 85% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, and eventually net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy. 

Permanent Property Tax Cap: Made permanent the 2% property tax cap, building upon the approximate $25 billion in taxpayer savings since it was implemented in 2012.

MTA Money and Management: Funded the MTA with an estimated $25 billion raised through Central Business District tolling, a new progressive mansion tax, and the elimination of the internet tax advantage. Implemented overdue MTA reforms including the developing a reorganization plan, modifying MTA Board appointments to align with appointing authority, requiring the MTA to undergo an independent forensic audit and efficiency review, and calling for a major construction review unit made up of outside experts to review major projects.

Advancing LGBTQ Rights: Governor Cuomo is enacting transformative legislation in support of LGBTQ rights, including the elimination of the gay and trans panic defense—closing a loophole in state law that allowed individuals to use the gay and trans panic defenses after attacking another based upon that victim’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The Governor also enacted into law the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and a ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy.

Establish a Farmworkers Bill of Rights: This legislation established a farmworkers bill of rights, granting overtime pay, a rest day and the right to unionize.

Enact Additional Sexual Harassment Protections: This package of reforms will lower the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment by amending the requirement that conduct be “severe or pervasive” to constitute actionable conduct; extend the statute of limitations for employment sexual harassment claims filed with the Division of Human Rights from one year to three years; and protect employees’ rights to pursue complaints by mandating that all non-disclosure agreements in employment contracts include language stating that employees may still participate in government investigations conducted by local, state, and federal anti-discrimination agencies

Expand Statutes of Limitations for Rape: Statutes of limitations on rape cases impose a ticking clock on how long victims are able to come forward if they want to seek charges. Over the last year, victims who have suffered in silence for decades have bravely spoken about their abuse, and also have laid bare the state’s limited ability to prosecute their abusers due to the passage of time. In recognition of this fact, states across the country are lengthening or eliminating the statutes of limitations on crimes of sexual violence. This legislation extends the statute of limitations for Rape in the Second Degree and Third Degree, and expand the civil statute of limitations for claims related to these offenses, allowing victims greater opportunity to obtain justice.

Closing the Gender Wage Gap: Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively to increase safeguards for women in the workplace and close the gender pay gap in New York. This package of reforms includes legislation to expand the definition of “equal pay for equal work” to prohibit unequal pay on the basis of a protected class for all substantially similar work and to close any loopholes employers try to use to pay people less on the basis of their gender, race or other protected classes; as well as a salary history ban, which prohibits employers from asking or relying on salary history of applicants and employees in making job offers or determining wages.

Reauthorize and Expand the MWBE Program: The Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program has been highly successful since its inception, establishing the highest goals for MWBE participation in the entire nation and awarding thousands of state contracts to minority-owned and women-owned businesses. This legislation reauthorizes the MWBE program and extends the provisions of law relating to the participation of MWBEs in state contracts to ensure this effective program continues.

Tenant Protections: This package of reforms, known as Housing Stability and Tenant Protection act of 2019, enacts the most sweeping, aggressive tenant protections in state history, safeguarding affordable housing for millions of New Yorkers.

Remove the Non-Medical Exemptions for Vaccines: The United States is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of measles in more than 25 years, with outbreaks in pockets of New York primarily driving the crisis. As a result of non-medical vaccination exemptions, many communities across New York have unacceptably low rates of vaccination, and those unvaccinated children can often attend school where they may spread the disease to other unvaccinated students. This new law will remove non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements for children and help protect the public amid this ongoing outbreak.

Ensuring Quality Education: School aid increased by over $1 billion, bringing total school aid to a record $27.9 billion. In addition, new reporting requirements will address imbalances in the distribution of resources by prioritizing funding at the individual school level in order to advance a more transparent, equitable education system.

Makes the Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act a Reality: Finally opens the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers by giving undocumented New York students the same advantages given to their citizen peers, including access to the Tuition Assistance Program and state administered scholarships such as Excelsior.

Expands Eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship Free Tuition Program: As the state’s successful free tuition program enters its third year, students whose families make up to $125,000 annually will now be eligible to apply for the program, allowing more than 55 percent of full-time, in-state SUNY and CUNY students—or more than 210,000 New York residents—to attend college tuition-free when combined with TAP assistance.

Criminal Justice Reform: Sweeping criminal justice reform was delivered by eliminating cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent offenses, ensuring the right to a speedy trial, and transforming the discovery process.

Continued Investment in Infrastructure: Builds upon the Governor’s unprecedented commitment to invest $150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Delivering on the Gateway Tunnel Project: This legislation establishes the Gateway Development Commission and creates a comprehensive rail investment program for purposes of the project. This bi-state effort, in cooperation with New Jersey, represents significant progress on a crucial project for our nation’s economy and security while restoring our role as a global leader in infrastructure.

Protecting the Environment: The launch of the Green New Deal—the most aggressive environmental protection initiative in the nation, the ban of single-use plastic bags, launch of the food waste recycling program and investment of an additional $500 million in clean water infrastructure, increasing the State’s historic investment to $3 billion, all of which serves to protect New Yorkers while combatting some of the most pressing threats to the environment.

Keeping New Yorkers Healthy: By codifying provisions of the Affordable Care Act, New Yorkers can rest assured that their health needs will be covered, regardless of Washington’s actions.

Supporting Workers’ Rights: Extended Janus protections to all local governments and guaranteed the right to organize and collectively bargain.

Promoting the Democracy Agenda: To boost New York’s voter turnout and ensure that New York’s elections remain fair and transparent, the following initiatives were enacted this year: synchronized federal and state elections, pre-registration for minors, early voting, universal transfer of registration, and the advancement of no-excuse absentee voting, and same-day registration.

Common Sense Gun Reform: Building upon the SAFE Act—the strongest gun control legislation in the country—additional measures were enacted this year to ensure guns were kept out of the wrong hands, including the Red Flag Bill, ban on bump stocks, and extending the background check waiting period.

Signing the Child Victims Act: The signing of this long-awaited legislation provided necessary relief to child victims of sexual abuse by amending New York’s antiquated laws to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, regardless of when the crime occurred.

Closing the LLC Loophole: Closed the LLC loophole by limiting political spending by an LLC to a total of $5,000 annually, which is the same limit as corporations. The new law also requires the disclosure of direct and indirect membership interests in the LLC making a contribution, and for the contribution to be attributed to that individual.

2019 Women’s Justice Agenda Accomplishments: With the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, Comprehensive Coverage Contraceptive Act, and the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, as well as the ban on revenge porn, and strengthened protections for breastfeeding in the workplace, Governor Cuomo continued his commitment to ensuring fairness and equality for women across New York State.

New capital funding investments this year include:

  • Full Funding for Extreme Winter Recovery: $65 million in State funding for the Extreme WINTER Recovery program. Provides enhanced assistance to local governments for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of local highways and roads impacted by New York State’s harsh winter weather. This unprecedented infrastructure investment in local roads and bridges is in addition to the $478 million in State funding provided through the CHIPS and Marchiselli programs, and $200 million for PAVE-NY and Bridge NY.
  • $120 Million Public Housing Investment: Building on the State’s unprecedented $550 million investment in the New York City Housing Authority, the Governor and Legislature are providing an additional $100 million in capital funding to help support its ongoing transformation while providing $20 million to support housing authorities and other housingoutside of New York City.
  • $100 Million for the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative: The Governor and Legislature are providing $100 million in capital funding to support the State’s up to $300 million commitment to communities impacted by Lake Ontario Flooding. Launched last month, the REDI Commission is working with localities along the shoreline to identify and support projects that will reduce the flooding risk to infrastructure while strengthening the region’s local economies.
  • $20 Million for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority: A $20 million capital appropriation is provided to support the first year of a five-year $100 million commitment from the Governor and Legislature to theNFTA to fund a five-year capital plan for maintenance and improvements of Metro Rail.
  • Penn Station 33rd Street Entrance: $425 million in capital funding will support the Penn Station 33rd Street Entrance project, and others associated with improvements to the Long Island Railroad. Just last month, the Governor unveiled final design renderings for the new main entrance to Penn Station located at 33rd street and 7th Avenue, which will provide much needed direct access to the LIRR Main Concourse and the New York City Subway.
  • $20 Million Investment in Public Libraries: A $20 million capital appropriation to public libraries will help libraries across New York State as they continue to transform into 21st century community hubs.
  • $30 Million for Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program: A $30 million capital appropriation will support the Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program, which under the Governor’s leadership is enabling independent colleges across the state to make critical investments in their infrastructure and equipment by providing matching capital grants.
  • $25 million Security Investment to Protect Against Hate Crimes: A $25 million capital appropriation is included for security projects at nonpublic schools, community centers, residential camps, and day care facilities at risk of hate crimes because of their ideology, beliefs, or mission.