On June 1st, Mayor Kathy Sheehan launched Pride Month in Albany in front of City Hall.
Each June, the LGBTQ community worldwide celebrates pride and unity while highlighting accomplishments in justice and equality. In Albany, flags of pride flew at city hall.
Tandra LaGrone is Executive Director of In Our Own Voices, an LGBT advocacy group. "When we look up and we see, behind the American flag that we have the support, not only of the city of Albany, but we look up at the first flag, which represents transgender TGNC individuals. And then in the middle we have the bisexual flag, and then we have the rainbow flag. Together, the three of those speak to diversity."
Mayor Kathy Sheehan: "It is our privilege and our honor to be able to celebrate that and celebrate our incredible diversity. This really acknowledges all of the amazing contributions that our LGBT community has bestowed upon our city and that they continue to bestow."
Albany Common Councilor Dick Conti is the city’s Executive Liaison for the LGBTQ Community. "2018 is the 30th anniversary of the defeat of the first Albany human rights ordinance on March 7th, 1988. It happened thirty years ago, upstairs, in that chamber. At that time I was sitting on the other side of the bar, in the audience, observing it. That was my introduction to Albany politics in terms of being a political activist in the city, getting involved, and now I sit on the other side as a member of the Common Council, where I can be a voice for our community and be an advocate."
Conti says things have changed a lot since then. "Back in '91 and '92 when the Human Rights Ordinance finally passed, and later on in 2005, I believe, when we included the trans[gender] community. It still has to be done on the state level. And just this past month, last month, in May, we became the third locality in New York State to adopt a conversion therapy ban, following Erie County and New York City. Something that was supported unanimously and endorsed by all members of the council. So we've come a long way, in the support that we have from our local elected officials here on the city level and the county level, and by our local legislative representatives in the Assembly and the Senate, very important in terms of moving our community forward."
State Senator Neil Breslin, an Albany-area Democrat, assured the gathering that changes are coming at the state level. "And we won't be safe, we won't be equal, we won't be fair, until we complete the legislation for the LGBT community. Beginning next year, I expect a different landscape in the New York state Legislature."
Martha Harvey is the Executive Director and CEO of Pride Center, the oldest continuously operating LGBTQ center in the country. "We genuinely are honored and feel so blessed to have the support of the city of Albany and our elected officials, and we really need that."
Mayor Sheehan has proclaimed Saturday, June 9th "Say It Loud! Black and Latino Gay Pride Day” throughout Albany. A celebration that day is scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. in Washington Park.