Letters to the Editor

The Empire Strikes Back

August 28, 2006

To the Editor:

While the Pride Agenda welcomes perspectives of all who share a commitment to winning equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers, Daniel Pinello uses factually incorrect information in his piece criticizing the Pride Agenda that ran in the August 17-23 edition of Gay City News (“Failure of Vision at the Pride Agenda”).

Mr. Pinello presumed that we would be endorsing candidates “who back only civil unions” and “don’t support gay people’s right to marry.”

This is wrong. A candidate’s position on civil unions is almost irrelevant to our endorsement process. On the question of marriage, the Pride Agenda is interested only in what position, if any, a candidate has on marriage equality. If a candidate is pro-civil union and anti-marriage, we will not consider that candidate for endorsement.

We could, however, consider for endorsement a candidate who has not yet taken a position on marriage. And this holds true for candidates who might happen to support civil unions, but are still undecided on marriage.

Now is not the time to walk away from someone simply because they are still learning about or trying to understand the issue of marriage equality, especially if they support our community on other issues that are vitally important to us—issues like transgender rights, safe schools for LGBT youth, funding for our community, and the unrestricted right to reproductive freedom.

Mr. Pinello says that the issue of marriage for same-sex couples has been around for 13 years and lawmakers have had plenty of time to decide where they stand on it.

The marriage issue has really only been before New Yorkers for three years since Canada legalized marriage and then Massachusetts did. And three years is also the amount of time there has been a marriage equality bill in both the New York State Assembly and Senate.

During this period, our polling has shown that support for marriage equality has risen from 47 percent to 53 percent, while opposition has dropped from 46 percent down to 38 percent. And while progress is being made in winning the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, the 53 percent figure does not yet say to lawmakers of either political party that supporting marriage equality is a no-brainer.

We would also argue that the period of time that an issue has “been around” has nothing to do with the political calculations an elected official makes when taking a position on it. This holds true particularly on an issue like marriage, which is—let’s face it—still controversial to many New York voters. Moreover, even if politicians may privately support an issue, they will rarely take a public position until they know where their constituents stand.

Mr. Pinello also asserts that the Pride Agenda intends to follow the same plan for winning marriage equality that it has used to win on other LGBT issues. Gay City News readers should know that winning marriage equality in New York State is never going to be business as usual at the Pride Agenda, and in fact, we’ve proven this during our past two years of work on the issue.

Organizing support for marriage in communities of faith and making allies of organized labor are things the Pride Agenda has never done before on the scale we do now. Building a core of community organizers at the Pride Agenda to focus on changing the hearts and minds of New Yorkers on marriage is also something that has never been done by this organization.

And neither has the Pride Agenda ever staged seven rallies across the state and mobilized thousands of New Yorkers with just a few hours notice as we did on July 6, the day the high court handed down its decision. We did this to send a strong and unmistakable message to lawmakers that the marriage issue is not going away and to set the stage for the next phase of the battle.

Mr. Pinello and everyone in our community should know that we meant it on July 6 and we mean it now: We are committed to doing whatever it takes to win marriage in New York for our families.

With hope,

Alan Van Capelle

Executive director

Empire State Pride Agenda

August 28, 2006

To the Editor:

It’s pretty irresponsible of Daniel Pinello not to have corrected the misstatements before parading his piece to the media. He had been engaged with the Pride Agenda during the endorsement process, and he knew about their endorsement criteria. Take, for instance, his passage that refers to the Pride Agenda allegedly supporting “state legislative candidates who don’t fully support gay people’s right to marry… giving its formal seal of approval to some lawmakers who back only civil unions.” He knew full well the inaccuracy behind these statements.

He wrote his piece before hearing first-hand the Pride Agenda’s endorsement process, yet he chose to leave his words as they were, even after knowing what he wrote was not a true reflection of the Pride Agenda’s plan. It’s disappointing that he obviously had no desire to correct the untruths to make them accurate statements.

I’ve read the entire essay, and the second part has a lot of merit. But for me, Mr. Pinello has soured it in its entirety by continuing to make false statements about the Pride Agenda during the first part of the piece. It’s shameful that now the Pride Agenda needs to waste time by going out there to correct stuff that he knew to be false. Apparently Mr. Pinello didn’t care. He wanted it to be told his way, despite what the reality might have been.

Jason Hungerford


August 29, 2006

To the Editor:

I feel uncomfortable with Dan Pinello publicly suggesting that the Pride Agenda is alienating its marriage ambassadors. He has made his point—and he is entitled to his perspective, but it’s important to note that his perspective is not shared by all marriage ambassadors.

The Pride Agenda is not a single-issue organization, and for that I am glad. Marriage equality is an important issue, but it is not the only issue that this organization’s mission calls for. If the Pride Agenda were to only support candidates that support marriage equality, it could greatly jeopardize the important and necessary work that must be done related to protecting transgendered individuals from discrimination and youth in our schools from harassment and violence.

I personally think that Dan acted irresponsibly by publicly attacking this organization. I support the Pride Agenda because of its strong, dedicated and ethical leaders—and for their strategic foresight to make the decisions that will benefit our community in the long run.

Adrea Jaehnig

Syracuse, NY

NOTE: Pinello’s perspectives essay can be found at http://www.gaycitynews.com/gcn_533/afailureofvision.html.

Written Consent and HIV Testing

August 22, 2006

To the Editor:

Some have inferred that because an increasing number of patients are being diagnosed earlier in the city Department of Health clinics that the current system requiring written consent on all patients is working well (“NYC’s HIV Infected Testing Earlier,” by Duncan Osborne, Aug. 17-23). Dr. Lucia Torian’s remarks that these findings apply to DOH sites which are highly specialized in treating STDs, and may not apply to outside sites, is correct.  

As of July 1 2006, St. Vincent’s-Manhattan instituted a policy to offer routine voluntary HIV testing to every medical inpatient admission, about 30 admissions per day. We have encountered many obstructions that impede the ability of the hospital to offer HIV testing, and therefore to identify chronic or new infections. In an effort to establish HIV testing for inpatient admissions as routine, we met with administrators, lab directors, nurses, and case managers. We trained all new incoming medical house staff and talked with supervising senior physicians. Our HIV staff and volunteers put together the paperwork and placed it into charts to make HIV testing more convenient. There is no other test that requires this kind of bureaucracy.

Despite considerable effort and continued monitoring, we have run into major barriers and disappointing results in terms of numbers tested. Forms get lost and special lab requests aren’t fully completed, causing tests not to be done. More important, it appears that requiring written informed consent serves as a constant reminder to staff and patients alike that HIV is still stigmatizing because our laws require us to treat HIV as “exceptional.”

Providers should still document that they have discussed HIV testing with patients, but normalizing HIV testing is important. Is there any other test that we tiptoe around so much, or that people would want to refuse when it provides critical information about their health?

It such be noted that since 1993 the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines have recommended that health care organizations serving areas where HIV prevalence is greater than one percent conduct voluntary, routine HIV testing for all inpatient and acute care admissions. (HIV prevalence in the areas surrounding St. Vincent’s far exceeds one percent.) Despite the CDC guidelines, we have found in the medical literature only two health care organizations in the United States that have actually implemented them. The almost universal disregard of the CDC guidelines governing HIV testing, coupled with our experience at St. Vincent’s trying to implement routine testing, seem to demonstrates that signed informed consent requirements impede the capacity of the public health sector to offer HIV testing in populations at greatest risk for HIV.

St. Vincent’s Comprehensive HIV Center

Antonio Urbina, M.D.

Medical director

HIV/AIDS Education

Paul Galatowitsch, Ph.D.


HIV/AIDS Education

Barbara Johnston, M.D.

Medical Director, HIV Clinic

NOTE: Osborne’s article can be found at http://www.gaycitynews.com/gcn_533/nycshivinfected.html.


Please address letters to the editor to


Or fax them to 646-452-2501

Gay City News | 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013© 2006 Community Media, LLC

You must include your phone number, which will be use for confirmation purposes only. The editors reserve the right to edit all letters due to space constraints.