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Gay/Straight Alliance holds statewide Skype event in 18 courts across New York

June 26, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Pictured from left: Hon. Doris Ling-Cohan; Alliance Vice President Doina Rosu Almazon; Gautam Raghavan; Marc Levine; Chief Clerk of New York County, Civil Term John Werner; and Michael E. O’Connor. Photo courtesy of Marc Levine
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The Gay/Straight Alliance of the New York State Courts System, or simply the Alliance, held an LGBTQ Pride event at the Supreme Court in Manhattan on Thursday that was broadcast across the state to 18 different courthouses via Skype.

“The Alliance is a pioneering organization, the first statewide LGBTQ organization in any state court system,” said Marc Levine, president of the Alliance. “The Alliance is dedicated to addressing the needs of LGBTQ people within the state courts. The Alliance has successfully advocated for representation by LGBTQ people among the administration of the courts, reaching out to LGBTQ people pursuing careers in the courts and providing support.”

The event, which featured a speech by Gautam Raghavan, the LGBT acting White House liaison under former President Barack Obama, was meant as a way to connect the courthouses throughout the state in an attempt to grow the organization.

“We want everyone to have a level playing field, that’s why we’re here,” Levine said. “We want to take things to the next level so today, with this event, our intention is to use this as a springboard for creating local chapters of the Alliance across the state. All of you out there in all the different courts, we urge you to sign our list and to start organizing with us.”

The alliance was created by Levine in Brooklyn approximately 15 years ago as a response to the treatment that he and other LGBTQ courthouse employees faced. He remarked in his statements that the Alliance helped to usher in a much more welcoming and inclusive environment for court employees almost overnight.

“When the Alliance happened and we started going to courts and holding events, people noticed that we’re not just some concept in a textbook, we’re your coworkers,” Levine said. “You look at us differently after that. That’s why we need to have a presence in every court to support the work we’ve done.”

A birthday cake celebrating 15 years of the Alliance. Photo courtesy of Marc Levine

During Thursday’s event in the Kings County Supreme Court, Denise Kean, the Alliance Regional Representative from the First Judicial District, welcomed guests for coffee and light snacks as attendees of Thursday’s event watched Levine’s introduction and Raghavan’s speech on a TV.

“We’re trying to eliminate prejudice, we’re trying to move forward on equality,” Kean said. “We hope to achieve a more progressive and tolerant environment by having an ongoing presence within the court system.”

In his speech, Raghavan discussed the many gains that the country achieved for LGBTQ rights under President Obama and noted that the current presidential administration isn’t even acknowledging Pride Month.

“During those eight years we witnessed tremendous sweeping historic change happening for our community,” Raghavan said. “That doesn’t happen on its own. That was the results of decades of activism, negotiation, litigation and legislation. It helped to have a president who believed. Unfortunately, what we’re seeing now in every level of the government are attempts to roll that back. Things are pretty bad right now.”

Raghavan applauded Levine’s efforts and exclaimed that efforts by the Alliance are the exact type needed to enact lasting change. He encouraged everyone in the 19 courthouses watching his speech to become an ally.

“This isn’t about one court case, it’s about dozens of attempts to undermine civil rights in the name of religious freedom,” Raghavan said. “As someone who believes in government, believes in law and believes government and our court systems, we cannot do this work without good people on the inside making a difference, speaking up and bringing their experiences to the table.”


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