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POLITICS

Mr. Chairman: Hoylman Delivers Quick LGBTQ Wins Judiciary Committee leader, only gay senator, lays out bold vision for new session BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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hen Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman gaveled the Judiciary Committee into session on Monday morning, his colleagues addressed him with a title he’d never before had in his six years in office: Mr. Chairman. But the new Judiciary chair, who spent his first three terms in Albany in the minority, took pains last week to emphasize his respect for a colleague who has also taken on a new title in the wake of the dramatic shift in the Senate’s make-up since the November elections: Andrea Stewart-Cousins. On January 9, the six-term African-American incumbent from Westchester County was elected Senate majority leader, becoming the first woman in state history to head either chamber of the Legislature. In an interview with Gay City News the day before, Hoylman opened up by mentioning that when Nancy Pelosi returned to the post of House speaker earlier this month, every Democrat wore a blue button inscribed with the words “Madame Speaker.” “I took the liberty of making some buttons up over here on 38th Street that say ‘Madame Leader’ on them, in exactly the same typeface and in exactly the same color,” he explained. To be sure, Stewart-Cousins’ ascension is historic —especially in the Age of Trump and the #MeToo movement. In an Albany culture where final negotiations on the state budget — which now totals some $170 billion — have typically been dubbed “three men in a room,” there will now be two men and one woman. Two among the trio will be African-American, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx. Still, it is no small matter that the new chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee is the Senate’s only out LGBTQ member. And it is striking that on Tuesday the new Senate majority kept faith with the LGBTQ community that for years has turned out to push for Democratic candidates by passing two long-stalled pieces of legislation: the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a transgender civil rights measure aimed at correcting the omission of gender identity and expression from the 2002 gay rights law, and a ban on so-called conversion therapy practiced on minors by state-certified mental health professionals. The heavily Democratic Assembly had passed GENDA, sponsored by Manhattan’s Richard Gottfried, repeatedly for more than a decade, and it has also previously approved the conversion therapy ban, helmed by out lesbian Deborah Glick, also from Manhattan. Like the

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State Senate Judiciary Chair Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, the chamber’s only out LGBTQ member, speaking to Gay City News on January 8.

Senate, the Assembly also approved the two measures on Tuesday, and they now only await Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature. For Hoylman, who was the Senate sponsor of both bills, quick Senate action was a vindication of a critique of the former Republican majority he had made over and over again. Noting the “appropriate symbolism” of the impending votes, he said, “Our community has been shut out of the Senate for eight years, without a single LGBTQ bill considered on the floor. This is a dramatic change and a fitting one given that it’s the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.” He added, “It’s a sad statement about the Republicans and particularly Republicans in New York that LGBTQ issues have become partisan ones.” Asked last week whether with Republican dominance of the Senate now decisively broken — Democrats hold a 39-23 edge, not counting renegade Democrat Simcha Felder, a social conservative who represents large Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn — some GOP senators might join the majority on GENDA or the conversion therapy ban, Hoylman responded, “I welcome them. We don’t need them. That will be an interesting twist. Maybe with Republicans with such a diminished presence, some will feel liberated. That said, I don’t see many moderate Republicans left in the Senate.” The Senate vote tally on Tuesday included three Republican yes votes on GENDA, but 18 to ban conversion therapy. Despite the impending easy passage of two cherished LGBTQ legislative priorities, that was not the topic Hoylman led with in his inter-

view. Instead, he first mentioned the responsibility of his Judiciary Committee to push back against the “onslaught of recriminations and encroachment toward our judicial system from Trump and his cronies.” One key element there is “keeping ICE out of our state courts.” Not only have some undocumented immigrants been taken into federal custody while appearing, either as a defendant or a plaintiff, in state court, Hoylman said, but worse is the deterrent effect the threat of apprehension has on immigrants seeking justice. “Let’s say you’re in an abusive relationship,” he said. “You don’t have any choice but to stay in that untenable situation out of fear of being extradited.” Another key priority Hoylman mentioned was enactment of the Child Victims Act. Although there are currently some differences between the Senate and Assembly versions of this measure — which he said he and Assembly sponsor Linda Rosenthal are working to iron out — it basically aims to raise the statute of limitations in criminal cases for sexual abuse of a minor, allow survivors to make civil claims up to the age of 50, and create a one-time window for survivors to come forward about abuse suffered no matter how long ago. The Catholic Church has been among the most active institutions lobbying behind the scenes to forestall this legislation, despite the establishment of victims’ compensation funds by the New York Archdiocese and some others around the state. Last week, in a Daily News op-ed, Cardinal Timothy Dolan warned against any measure that would have the effect of “breaking” the Church. Asked about that warning, Hoylman responded, “There’s no example of a window period revival having that impact. No church body, to my knowledge, has involuntarily filed for bankruptcy. They’ve done that to protect their assets, but they haven’t done so because they ran out of money.” Senate Democrats, he said, are committed to taking action on the issue this session, with many newly elected members, especially from Long Island and the Hudson Valley, having won by emphasizing their support for the Child Victims Act and the opposition of their Republican opponents. Another issue on which Hoylman favors movement is enactment of the New York Health Act, creating a single-payer universal care system for the state. On this issue, too, he said, support among Senate Democrats is very high. At the same time, he acknowledged, study, edu-

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January 17, 2019