Archive for the 'ny state' Category

Another stupid argument against marriage equality – and adoption?

Like others, I’m kind of excited about the prospect of same-sex marriage being legalized in New York state, despite my ambivalence around marriage in general and my disagreement with the centrality of same-sex marriage to the mainstream gay rights movement. So I was happy to read that the New York State Assembly approved the same-sex marriage bill yesterday. But in reading the Reuters article, I read yet another idiotic argument against same-sex marriage that offended me more deeply than usual, not only as a queer person but also as an adopted person:

Rev. Duane Motley, a Christian lobbyist, said in Albany on Wednesday that legalizing gay marriage would “undermine the stability of our society” because he said a child of a gay couple could only have one biological parent.

Um, WTF? First off, I don’t know whether Motley was misquoted or partially quoted by the article’s author, because I can’t imagine that anyone would be so stupid as to assert that a child of a gay couple would actually only have one biological parent. Until science makes greater leaps than it has so far, every human that is born will have two biological parents.

Whether they have both biological parents in their lives is another matter, of course, and I’m assuming that’s what Motley is ineptly referring to as a possible destroyer of the fabric of our society. However, same-sex marriage is hardly the first or only cause of one or both biological parents being absent from a person’s life. As a happy adoptee of two wonderful non-biological parents, I can personally assure Motley that the absence of my biological parents in my early life didn’t cause me any damage. (Well, unless he’d count my queerness, leftist politics, and assorted other perversions as damage done by only having one biological parent.)

Perhaps we’ll soon see Motley and his fellow “Christian lobbyist” fighting against adoption, child rearing by non-parental family members, and all forms of single parenthood (including parenting by widows or widowers) for fear that these scenarios will undermine the stability of our society!

After 20 years’ fight, expanded domestic violence law in NY state

Twenty years ago, Assemblywoman Helene E. Weinstein of Brooklyn introduced legislation that would expand protections for victims of domestic and intimate partner violence in New York state. After reintroducing similar legislation every year since, the Fair Access bill has finally passed in the state legislature and will soon be signed into law by Governor David Paterson. From the NY Times:

The new law would make it possible for people in dating relationships, heterosexual or gay, to seek protection from abusers in family court. As it stands, New York has one of the narrowest domestic violence laws in the country, allowing for civil protection orders only against spouses or former spouses, blood relations or the other parent of an abused person’s child …

“New York lagged behind all the other states in the Northeast in terms of addressing orders of protection,” the governor said. “We expanded the coverage to include what we would consider to be intimate relationships. They do not have to be sexual. Theoretically, it could be two people who are dating and haven’t had sex. They’ve come close, one refuses the other and then the stalking starts.”

Advocacy groups say that current law has deterred teenagers and gay men and women from seeking protection from abusers, because their only recourse is the criminal courts. Getting an order of protection in criminal court requires reporting abuse to the police, the arrest of the alleged abuser, and the cooperation of a prosecutor.

Civil protection orders in family court accept a lower burden of proof and do not require police involvement, and an accuser can be represented by a lawyer and not have to rely on a prosecutor.

This is an incredibly important development. My partner works as a lawyer representing victims of domestic and intimate partner violence and has frequently voiced her frustration and anger at the lack of recourse available to clients whose relationships with their abusers do not fall within the incredibly narrow requirements of the current law.

These limitations do work against many adults in heterosexual relationships – as it stands, the law only allows orders of protection “against spouses or former spouses, blood relations or the other parent of an abused person’s child,” excluding a vast swath of intimate and domestic relationships of any sexuality – but they also tend to severely limit the options for queer people and teenagers, as the NY Times article points out. Both populations are particularly vulnerable to domestic and intimate partner violence, both because of the lack of options and because of the lack of awareness that this violence happens all too frequently to teens and queer people.

A survey released on Tuesday reveals that “sixty-nine percent of teens who had sex by age 14 reported some type of abuse in a relationship, with slightly more than one-third saying they had been physically abused.” That is one horrifying statistic. And safer sex education isn’t the only thing that’s severely lacking; education about abuse in relationships is also missing, and the results are clearly damaging, as the CNN article states: “Despite the number of teens and tweens who say they have experienced abuse or say they know someone who has, only about 51 percent say they are aware of the warning signs of hurtful dating relationship.”

Intimate partner violence is also a serious problem in the LGBTQ community, but one that frequently goes overlooked and unreported. People tend to think of domestic violence as resulting from clearly gendered power dynamics, with abusers tending to be men and victims tending to be women. And though it is true that sexism and misogyny create a society in which this is true, that doesn’t mean that the gender dynamic is always the same in instances of domestic and intimate partner violence. We can’t pretend that same-sex relationships create instant equality, eliminate power dynamics and erase the chance of intimate partner violence. That only serves to limit the resources available to LGBTQ survivors of abuse and force them into silence and even shame. The LGBTQ community must recognize that this is a problem for us as much as it’s a problem for straight people, and we must respond as a community by acknowledging and condemning abuse and supporting survivors.

I hope that the passage of legislation like the Fair Access bill will help LGBTQ, youth, and other survivors of abuse not only by giving them more recourse for protection from their abusers but by also bringing attention to the problems of abuse in these communities. Tremendous thanks to Assemblywoman Weinstein and all of the domestic violence advocates, including my partner, who have fought this twenty year battle to win protections that should have existed as a no-brainer in the first place.

cross-posted at Feministe

The other Spitzer on the stage

When I wrote my last entry on Eliot Spitzer’s newest scandal, I struggled to figure out how to talk about what it felt like to see his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, standing next to him during yesterday’s brief public apology. I knew that it felt strange and wrong, like some kind of sad political show that male politicians’ wives are forced into after they’ve royally screwed up. I wanted to write something about that, but couldn’t figure out how; it was getting late, I’d already written a long entry and I just wanted to be done. So I wound up writing this:

Is anyone else tired of wronged politician’s wives being forced into public embarrassment for the sake of standing by their cheating men?

But when rereading the post, I realized it didn’t come off quite right; the words didn’t even sound like something I’d say. Though I’m in a happily monogamous relationship, I’m certainly not invested in some idea of monogamy as sacrosanct or the exclusively correct relationship structure. I think this stance complicates my view of infidelity in a way that doesn’t come through in what I wrote, which actually sounds rather hetero- and monagamonormative, to coin a word there. To clarify: the fucked up thing about infidelity is not the multiple partners/lovers part, but rather, the violation of trust and deceit part.

When I read my friend Rabi’s take on positions like the one I put forth with the above statement, my dissatisfaction with what I’d written increased to the point that I took it down completely. Rabi writes:

i just want to say that I’m sick of people assuming that every time the wife of a man who has been revealed to be a cheater — so yeah, like hillary clinton and silda wall spitzer — stands next to him at a press conference, she has been forced to do so. maybe she is, which would be hideous and despicable. and it’s not that I doubt that happens pretty often. but MAYBE she isn’t, in which case your assumptions are unhelpful, nasty, and judgmental. argh.

[this is in response to like 95% of the feminist websites on my blogroll. NO i don't think it's antifeminist to decide to stay in a relationship after infidelity. although cheating on your wife with a prostitute probably is, assuming she didn't know about it.]

All very true. Silda Spitzer is strong, intelligent woman, and while it’s necessary to acknowledge how sexism plays out in situations like these, to immediately assume that she was forced to appear at her husband’s side does negate her agency. I agree with Rabi that leaving a relationship after infidelity is neither the inherently feminist response nor the right response for every relationship or situation. Silda Spitzer seems perfectly capable of assessing her relationship with her husband, figuring out what’s best for her, and acting on that. Perhaps she’s chosen to forgive him, or perhaps she can separate their personal troubles from his political career and genuinely supports him as governor. The NY Times reports that she’s among the advisers who’ve told Spitzer “that he should not resign in haste.” So who are we to assume that she’s merely a pawn here, playing a forced role in a sexist political tableau? Such an assumption seems rather patronizing and more than a bit sexist in itself. There are ways for us to point out the weird and quite possibly sexism dynamics of the situation while not perpetuating said sexism in the same breath.

Spitzer’s governorship in jeopardy, but what about reproductive rights in NY State?

So, as I’m sure everyone and their mother has already heard by now if they’ve been anywhere near a television or the Internet in the past 24 hours, NY governor Eliot Spitzer has been linked to a prostitution ring. He issued a televised apology to his family and the public on Monday, his wife standing at his side. Talk of a probable resignation is everywhere, and given his already embattled tenure as governor, it doesn’t look like he’ll last long.

Spitzer’s administration has been something of a disappointment, and he is just another fairly mainstream Democrat with the usual spate of disagreeable stances, but I still feel some regret and frustration that he’s gone and committed political suicide in such a royally stupid way. For all of his many shortcomings, he exhibited some glimmers of true progressiveness that I appreciated: his support for gay marriage (even though it was mostly a big old show given that his proposal was dead in the water and he had to know it would be), his push for drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants (though the plan had major flaws and, again, failed.) OK, so maybe for the most part Spitzer talked some good talk and tripped over his own feet when he attempted to walk the walk, but still, this was more than what we get from most elected officials these days.

Another one of Spitzer’s good ideas happened to be front and center on Monday – until the scandal broke, that is. March 10 is the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers (who knew?), and the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State convened in Albany. Governor Spitzer was scheduled to address the conference on Monday morning, in part to speak on the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act, a bill that he introduced into the NY State Legislature last year and had declared a legislative priority for 2008. The bill declares that abortion is a fundamental right for women and would protect women’s right to safe, legal abortions even if the Supreme Court was to overturn Roe v Wade. Of course, the Catholic Church is all in a huff about the bill and is doing its best to defeat it, though luckily New York state has a fairly good pro-choice track record, even when targeted by Rome’s most fervent efforts.

Perhaps this is just the conspiracy theorist in me, but it does seem all too convenient that Spitzer’s scandal should emerge just as he was about to renew his public push to get this tremendously important bill passed. The timing was so perfect that he had to cancel his address to the conference at the last minute. OK, so it’s probably unlikely that this was all orchestrated to defeat the reproductive rights bill, though taking down this bill at the same time as taking down Spitzer does seem like not-so-far-fetched icing on the cake for his conservative political enemies.

Regardless of whether the timing was coincidental or deliberate, it’s maddening that the passage of such an important bill may now be in jeopardy because Spitzer paid for sex. One only hopes that whether we’ve got Governor Spitzer or Governor Paterson by the end of the week, the bill will survive the scandal and ensure that women in NY State are protected in the face of an increasingly tenuous Roe v Wade.

And when it’s all said and done, it’s absurd that Spitzer can be taken down for paying for sex and infidelity, former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey resigned over being outed as gay (and infidelity), and Bill Clinton was impeached for cheating with an intern, while Bush and Cheney look like they’re going to finish their terms without so much as a hint of impeachment after they’ve waged illegal war, violated the civil rights of countless people, and endorsed torture. Yeah, the scandals that embroiled Clinton, McGreevey and now Spitzer also involved some perjury, illegality and corruption, but apparently breaking the law is only really bad if it involves sex taboos. Torture, murder and illegal imprisonment? Apparently not nearly as much of a threat to one’s political career. And that’s the true perversion.

NYC public housing: a shambles in need of fixing

the CVH public housing tour

Many low-income people in NYC rely on public housing as one of the few sources of affordable housing available to them in this city of sky-rocketing rents. However, the conditions in public housing are often sub-par, with poor maintenance and major repairs left undone for years. These conditions are threatening to get worse, even while residents are forced to pay higher rents.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which runs public housing, is facing a budget deficit of $225 million, largely due to major funding cuts from the federal and state governments. NYCHA has been scrambling to make up for this deficit, but most of the measures that it’s taking wind up hurting the residents of public housing: rent increases, additional fees charged for basic household appliances, delays in making urgent and essential repairs, and the planned layoff of more than 500 workers from an already understaffed agency.

Last Thursday, Community Voices Heard, a member-led grassroots organization of low-income New Yorkers, led housing advocates and elected officials on a tour of public housing developments to show them just how important it is that NYCHA gets much-needed funding (and utilizes it well, of course – just because the money’s there doesn’t mean it’ll be used right.)

In one apartment on the the tour, a bathroom wall had been left without repairs for two years; a sheet of plastic has been hung over a gaping hole, leaving pipes and hazardous materials exposed. In another building, the walls of a fire-damaged hallway have not been cleaned for over a year. Residents complained of stoves that haven’t worked for ages, one of which was removed two years ago because of a gas leak and not replaced until last week, when the media contacted NYCHA after the CVH tour.

Agnes Rivera, a CVH leader and a resident of one of the housing developments, spoke of the worsening situation in public housing and how important this housing can be:

We are bringing our elected officials on this tour to show them that our housing is deteriorating. The Housing Authority doesn’t have the money to make the repairs that the families living in public housing need…

I was in the shelter system, due to a domestic violence situation, and was lucky to have public housing as my safe haven. Public housing has helped me live in an affordable home and to afford sending my children to college. My children want to be able to afford the same things for their children.

At the press conference after the tour, CVH and their allies called for Governor Spitzer to sign the shelter allowance bill (S.4329/A.7905) which recently passed both houses of the New York State legislature and could add $47 million to NYCHA’s suffering budget. The bill would make the state’s contribution to NYCHA for residents receiving public assistance the same as the state’s current contribution to private landlords who house public assistance recipients. Coucilmember Rosie Mendez was among those calling on Spitzer to sign the bill:

There is no explanation for public housing authorities receiving less than half the payment private landlords receive for the same size apartment. I urge the Governor to sign the bill and avert the unthinkable consequence that NYCHA is financially unable to continue to provide quality, low-cost housing for New Yorkers that are least able to afford shelter in our city’s overheated private housing market.

Now, maybe Governor Spitzer is a little distracted by the whole Bruno debacle, but his attention needs to be drawn back to signing this crucial bill. Despite our capitalistic society that gives to each according to cash instead of need, public housing should not equal sub-standard housing for low-income people. Email, write to, or call Governor Spitzer to demand his prompt signature of the bill so that the much-needed funding can soon reach NYCHA and ultimately public housing residents.

That’s Why I’m Voting for Alison Duncan…

… for lieutenant governor of New York.

Also, because she got me on TV. Heh.

But seriously – yes, I’m voting for Alison Duncan (and, in turn, Malachy McCourt, since you vote for the ticket, not the individual candidates.) And you should, too! And not only because they have a solid, truly progressive platform, and not only because I can personally vouch for Alison and say that a whole lot of people who never get paid much mind in Albany will get paid a whole lot of mind if she’s there.

I think it’s also important to vote for Alison and Malachy because we really need to break out of the two-party system. Especially when the two parties always look so damn similar. And a good way to do this is to get third parties, like the Green Party, a line on the ballot, so that their candidates actually show up as an option for people’s votes. If Alison and Malachy get 50,000 votes, then they’ll get ballot status back again.

And for voters who’d normally be more inclined to vote for Spitzer – he’s clearly a shoo-in (or is it shoe in? who knows), so if you agree with me that we need more parties and more options, why don’t you make your vote do some heavy lifting? 50,000 isn’t much, but it’s the kind of number where every vote truly counts.

So, head into that voting booth, look for Row F, and pull that lever for truly progressive, independent candidates. Pull that lever to make a clear statement about the need to break out of the stale and stagnant two-party system. And pull that lever for someone who’s just a right-on person and who I know would do a brilliant job. Yes, that’s an official endorsement – AngryBrownButch endorses Alison Duncan for Lieutenant Governor of New York! Hehe.

(ps When we speak about “our community” in the commercial above, it’s always about the LGBT community. it was a commercial for Logo.)

Alison Duncan for Lieutenant Governor

My good friend Alison Duncan is running for Lieutenant Governor of New York on the Green Party ticket. She’ll be keeping a campaign blog, which I encourage you all to check out. I have to admit that I know nothing about the other candidates for the post, including Senator David Paterson, the NY State Senator, a person of color, who is Elliot Spitzer’s running mate. But I do know Alison, and I know that she’d be a superb candidate with lots of excellent ideas and her priorities in the right places. And I’m also a strong supporter of third (and fourth and fifth and tenth) party politics, so it’s kind of like a two-fer deal. Check her out!

how much longer are we stuck with this jerk?

Have other New Yorkers been keeping abreast of Pataki’s recent budget veto spree? It seems like he’s trying to piss everyone and their mother off by both tremendously cutting spending on state services and also cutting tons of tax cuts. Some of his spending cuts include $650 million stripped from Medicaid and $4.6 million from legal services for poor and low-income New Yorkers. The New York State Bar Association is decrying the veto, saying that if allowed to stand, it will result in “a drastic reduction in legal services to the poor.” As if poor folks in New York don’t have a hard enough time already accessing legal services.

Apparently, much of this is part of an attempt on Pataki’s part to show just how fiscally conservative he can be and to demonstrate that, even as a lame duck, he’s still got some punch left in him – all with a view to bolster his 2008 presidential bid. Let’s hope that it backfires, as this NY Times news analysis suggests it might:

The governor’s strategy is not without its risks, especially for someone who is still flirting with a run for president. Vetoing more than $1 billion in tax cuts is not the kind of thing that plays well in Republican primaries, and is the kind of factoid that has been known to make its way into attack ads. How will the veto of $200,000 for a tractor rollover protection program play with those Iowa farmers he has been courting?

Let’s also cross our fingers and hope that Spitzer (who seems pretty much set to take the governorship in November) is a far sight better than Pataki. I admittedly don’t know too much about him, but somehow he makes me a little nervous. As I suppose most politicians do, especially the white male variety.