In the City of Buffalo, our Common Council took action to protect its citizens. It passed legislation establishing a domestic partnership registry for the city and extending partner benefits to city employees in same-gender partnerships. This is an important action, as New York State currently discriminates in more than 1,000 rights and protections that a civil marriage provides to couples and families based on gender.
Marriage equality is needed legislation and will afford families the protections of hospital visitation, health insurance and home protection. Marriage equality will provide a civil right to citizens, and infringe on no one’s right to practice or preach the teaching of any religious dogma.
Our State Legislature also passed the Dignity for All Students Act, which protects all of our children from bullying in schools. While the LGBTQ community is ever-advancing in terms of acceptance, we must never neglect the plight of countless LGBTQ children who grow up in intolerant environments. As the recent highly publicized suicides of young LGBTQ individuals tragically highlighted, there is a crucial need for children to be protected from the forces of hate.
Each one of us who believes in the cause of the civil rights movement, alongside our elected officials, must make it known publicly and in our private lives that individual identity is not something to be hated, and that even in the worst of situations, it gets better and there is a life and world out there for our children that will embrace, accept and treat them equally under the law.
Also, in Washington, Congress finally repealed the military’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” ensuring that no one in our military is denied the opportunity to serve our country honestly and with dignity.
However, much work remains. There are no federal protections from employment discrimination for LGBTQ Americans, and our state has yet to pass anti-discrimination legislation for individuals based on gender identity and expression. If our government is truly concerned about jobs, Congress will pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and New York will pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, to allow that no one faces unjust discrimination from employment. Equally important is the need for LGBTQ-inclusive immigration reform, as no American should ever have to choose between family and country.
I look forward to the day when Martin Luther King’s dream is fully realized, and every woman and man is treated equally in our communities and under the law. I have every faith our nation and world will rise to the task.
Bryan Ball is president of Stonewall Democrats of Western New York.