With the April 1 state budget deadline looming, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization New Pride Agenda is simultaneously fighting for funding initiatives while also keeping an eye on other legislative priorities in the broader fight for justice against unprecedented headwinds in the political landscape.
The organization will look to highlight the community’s most pressing priorities during a rally on the afternoon of April 1 in Manhattan, where the organization will outline its 2023 LGBTQ+ Community Agenda. Planned as a “Rally to Victory,” the New Pride Agenda is encouraging advocates to gather at the Christopher Street Pier at 3 p.m. ahead of a 4 p.m. march to the Stonewall National Monument. There will be a community happy hour at Stonewall from 5-6 p.m. The organization hosted a similar rally last year, albeit under a different political environment.
The key pillars of the New Pride Agenda’s 2023 agenda include repealing the STI Discrimination Act and the 340B Medicaid carveout; implementing comprehensive sex education; and passing the LGBT Long-Term Care Facility Bill of Rights, Good Cause Eviction, Housing Voucher Access Program, Modern Families Act, Clean Slate Act, and the federal Equality Act.
“We are really pushing our 2023 community agenda, which is robust — it has over 10 pieces of legislation regarding the LGBTQ community — but we’re going to focus primarily on our budgetary advocacy,” Elisa Crespo, New Pride Agenda’s executive director, told Gay City News on March 27.
The Lorena Borjas Trans Wellness and Equity Fund, which rose to the fore last year after California established a similar program to steer resources to areas of need such as housing, health and mental health services, is back on the to-do list this year. Last year advocates secured $3 million for that fund from the state — including $1 million from the Legislature and $2 million from the governor’s LGBTQ fund, according to Crespo. Now the organization hopes to expand that total from $3 million to $4 million. So far, the State Senate has entertained those funding priorities, Crespo said.
“We are trying to get the Assembly to put an additional $1 million the way the Senate did,” Crespo said.
The New Pride Agenda is also keeping an eye on the national landscape in anticipation of greater demand for services, housing, and other needs at a time when transgender and non-binary individuals are particularly under siege in parts of the country led by GOP-led State Legislatures. Hundreds of bills have targeted transgender individuals across a wide range of areas such as healthcare, sports, and bathrooms. Lawmakers in statehouses have also moved forward with anti-drag bills and legislation restricting schools from teaching students about the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups.
New York State, Crespo said, needs to be ready to absorb the demand from people fleeing those states. Crespo said at this time last year, there were around 58,000 trans and non-binary youth in other states who were facing greater risks due to the legal landscape.
“There are going to be young people who are going to flock to places like New York,” Crespo said. “The fund then becomes even more important.”
Shéár Avory, New Pride Agenda’s lead statewide community organizer, echoed Crespo’s comments, telling Gay City News that the State Legislature must make New York a safe haven for trans youth and their families.
“New York is the nation’s frontline defense to attacks on civil liberties and fundamental freedoms, but there’s still so much work to be done to ensure equality and advance equity in our very own backyards,” said Avory, who described the April 1 event as a “rallying cry to Albany to act now to save our lives.”
“Voted on by hundreds of mostly lower-income, BIPOC LGBTQIA+ New Yorkers — and endorsed by twenty-five organizations across the state and country — our agenda this year aims to hold our state’s leaders accountable to addressing the needs and disparities of most directly impacted LGBTQ+ New Yorkers,” Avory said.
Among other areas of importance for the New Pride Agenda include the decriminalization of sex work, which rose up as a major issue in New York City in 2019 at a time when groups like DecrimNY were aggressively pushing for comprehensive decriminalization. Other than some key gains — such as the repeal of the Walking While Trans law in 2021 — activism surrounding sex work decriminalization has dwindled significantly in recent years.
New Pride Agenda hopes to inject some new momentum into those issues moving forward.
“We are bringing our community together just like we’ve always done, hitting the streets,” Crespo said. “And we are going to a place that has a lot of historic reference and meaning to our community, where our movement started here in New York City, and we’re just trying to bring back that energy and urgency.”
Members of New Pride Agenda are sprawled out across the state in order advance the organization’s goals at a timely moment. Crespo said lawmakers will likely place some issues — like making New York a safe haven for trans youth and their families — on the backburner until Pride Month.
Until then, advocates will fight to achieve as much of their agenda as possible.
“If we’ve learned anything as a community, and as a movement, over the past several years it is that we are far from the tipping point,” Avory said. “ So let’s continue to organize and count our wins together.”