"Our Work is Far From Over": Empire State Pride Agenda Looks to the Future
By Benjamin Solomon
29 Jun 2014
To achieve its goals, ESPA acts as both a non-profit advocacy group, lobbying politicians on behalf of their causes; and as a PAC, endorsing candidates and making political contributions. Schaefer says these efforts combine to raise the voices of LGBT New Yorkers, including those who cannot make their concerns heard. Through strategic events and hired muscle in Albany, Schaefer and co. say they are building a groundswell of support for these issues.
New York City's performing arts community is a key piece to the success of that groundswell. "Broadway is in our DNA. We've always had strong connections with New York's theatre community, from partnerships with shows that highlight the lives of LGBT people to prominent players in the industry that have been supporters," says Schaefer.
One such industry player is Billy Porter, the Tony Award-winning star of Kinky Boots. "As a New Yorker and a gay man I felt compelled to get involved and lend my voice to the fight for equal rights for LGBT New Yorkers," says Porter, who first learned of ESPA from his manager Frank Selvaggi and now serves on the organization's board of directors. "There's an expression of identity that runs deep in both theatre and with the Pride Agenda's work."
But even with Porter's help, ESPA's work is nothing without the hundreds of people that demand LGBT equality everyday. Schaefer says it all starts with a phone call. "Reach out to your elected officials and tell them that LGBT New Yorkers matter," he urges. "Move them to take action and vote in our favor."