It's been a good year for the Empire State Pride Agenda
On June 24, 2011, New York State recognized marriage equality for same-sex couples. In Washington State, a bill passed through the Legislature on February 8, and Maryland followed suit with civil unions on March 1. Then, on May 9, President Barack Obama
reported that his stance on the issue had "evolved," citing the work that had been done in New York, particularly with people of faith.
"We've certainly seen amazing momentum from the marriage equality win in New York State," said ESPA Interim Executive Director, Lynn Faria
. "It's created a tidal wave that has washed over the nation." Faria is recently married herself, to partner Kendra Hutchinson
Cliff and Doris Dear (Photo: Tom McKee)
Such was the tone of the afternoon this past Saturday, where friends and families of the LGBT community congregated at Nova's Ark
in Watermill, for ESPA's annual Hamptons Tea Dance
. The event, one of the education and advocacy nonprofit's largest, is the premiere LGBT fundraiser of the season, and draws a festive crowd of over 500+ people, including British talk show host Graham Norton
, fashion designer Peter Som
, and former America's Next Top Model finalist and MTV
Correspondent Kim Stolz
Pride was in the air over the sprawling fields of the sculpture park, where cups runneth'd over with Belvedere
Vodka, Bud Light, Barefoot Wines and ZICO Coconut water
, with comestibles by East Hampton's Silver Spoon Specialties
New York City
nightlife institution, DJ Lady Bunny
, sparkled (literally) atop the booth, in a sequined minidress and hair the size of a small child, steering the ship with a playlist heavy with divas past and present - Whitney Houston
, Donna Summer
, and the like. Any many proud same-sex families were in tow, with a children's play center provided by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, along with toys donated by Bridgehamptons's Second Star to the Right
According to Faria, proceeds from the event will support local action committees, arming the LGBT community and it's allies with the knowledge they need before they take to the polls this November.
"The upcoming elections are going to be very important for our community," she said. "It's important to maintain the year's momentum and continue that positive narrative."
In addition to equal protection for same-sex couples, the passage of a Transgender Non-Discrimination Act has been an issue of focus for ESPA in recent months.
"Currently in New York State there's no state-wide law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people," said Faria. "What we do have in New York is a patchwork of protection. You may be protected in Suffolk County, but when you drive through Nassau, you're not."
And with a recent onslaught of headlines regarding the transgender community - i.e. the state's decision to reject the possibility of using Medicaid
to pay for transgender surgery, and a Brooklyn man stabbing his transgender girlfriend to death earlier this year - issues facing the community have become a greater a part of public discourse.
As New York State legislature reported to "consider" drafting an anti-discrimination clause for transgender individuals earlier this May, ESPA will continue to advocate for equality and justice for underserved populations.
"We're looking for a blanketed, unified approach to the issue of discrimination," Faria concluded.
Greg Mckenzie, Mark Dumoulin, Lee Cannon, Sean Bruns, and Nicholas Landry. (Photo: Tom McKee)
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