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An Open Letter to Governor David A. Paterson

Governor David A. Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, New York 12224

Dear Governor Paterson,

Thank you for calling the senate back for an extraordinary session. With control of the senate unresolved, New York needs your leadership now more than ever. Your leadership earlier this session was critical to achieving historic reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

We urge you now to ensure that the senate considers those pieces of social justice legislation that the senate had been expected to pass with majority support when that body was thrown into chaos two weeks ago: clear and affirmative recognition for reproductive choice, marriage rights for lesbian and gay New Yorkers, anti-bullying legislation to protect children in our schools, the right of family members to make medical decisions for incapacitated loved ones, paid family leave, anti-discrimination protections for the transgender community, and transparency/oversight in mayoral control of schools.

We urge you to tell the senate that they cannot abandon the social justice agenda. We need you to issue a message of necessity so that the senate must act on:

  • Marriage Fairness – Momentum is building as more and more of the “undecideds” are reported to be leaning in the right direction. All of New York’s families deserve access to the rights and protections afforded by marriage.
  • The Reproductive Health Act – New York law fails to affirmatively guarantee the right to choose, still treats abortion as a crime, and fails to protect women’s health. New York law must clearly recognize women’s reproductive freedom.
  • The Paid Family Leave Act – Federal law allows employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid family leave – but many New York families cannot afford to lose the pay. The Paid Family Leave Act would provide a weekly disability benefit when an employee takes time off to care for a newborn or seriously ill family member.
  • The Family Health Care Decisions Act – Family members, domestic partners, and close friends must be able to make end-of-life decisions for incapacitated persons – no New Yorker should ever have to go through what Terri Schiavo and her family went through in Florida. The Family Health Care Decisions Act ensures that friends and family can make important medical decisions when their loved ones cannot.
  • Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) – Transgender and gender non-conforming people are not afforded the same protections as other vulnerable groups under state human rights law. GENDA would prohibit discrimination based upon gender expression and gender identity.
  • Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) – An alarming number of students report harassment and bullying in school that interferes with their education. DASA will help ensure that students in public elementary and secondary schools can learn in an educational environment free of discrimination and harassment.
  • Transparency/oversight in mayoral control – By the end of this session, the legislature must decide the future of mayoral control over the New York City public schools. While the NYCLU does not take an official position on some of the most hotly contested issues in this debate, we firmly believe that the legislature’s final decision must provide for increased tranparency, oversight and accountability.
  • Healthy Teens Act – New York has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies and STIs. The Healthy Teens Act would help school districts and community-based organizations provide comprehensive sex education for young people.

For more than a generation, the old-line majority in the senate killed almost every major piece of progressive legislation that came before that body. When New Yorkers went to the polls in record numbers in November 2008, they sent a message that they wanted change. With the change in senate leadership, we saw our first real chance to pass the kind of progressive legislation that our state needs. We call on you to ensure that no matter what emerges from the current leadership struggle, the progressive agenda demanded by the voters reaches the floor.


Donna Lieberman
Executive Director

cc: Senator Malcolm A. Smith
Senator Dean G. Skelos
Senator John L. Sampson
Senator Pedro Espada Jr.

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