Saranac Laker wins LGBTQ honor

Kelly Metzgar, director of Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance, named state WorldPride ambassador

Kelly Metzgar has won the title of WorldPride ambassador for 2019, one of 11 to land the honor in the state competition.

She is executive director of the Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance in Saranac Lake and a founding board member of Gender Equality NY.

“New York state has been a leader in the LGBTQ rights movement for years,” Metzgar said in a press release from the governor’s office, “and under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, this legacy is not only continuing, but becoming stronger than ever.

She expressed thanks to the governor “for this opportunity to show the world how important Saranac Lake, the Adirondack North Country and the entire state of New York are to me and the LGBTQ community.”

The only winner from the region, Metzgar lives in Saranac Lake.

The rest of the contingent, from around the state, are Angelique Piwinski, Ari Moore, Audrey De Jesus, Cecilia Gentili, Chelle Lhuillier, Drew Schiff, Judith Kasen-Windsor, Mohamed Q. Amin, Taylor, and Trenor Wilkins.

Highlights diversity

For the contest, LGBTQ New Yorkers were invited to submit a video describing why they are proud of their municipality and state, and what in their town and region they would want to show off to LGBTQ visitors.

“From Buffalo to the Adirondacks to Queens, the WorldPride Ambassadors demonstrate that LGBTQ communities are everywhere in New York State,” the release said.

The winners, selected to highlight the diversity of New York’s LGBTQ community, will participate in the WorldPride and Stonewall 50 celebrations to promote the LGBTQ rights movement, including participating in the Pride March.

This year’s WorldPride — the largest international LGBTQ Pride celebration — takes place in New York state as the first held in the United States.

The WorldPride Ambassador competition is part of New York state’s overall promotion of WorldPride 2019 and Stonewall 50.

In June 1969, LGBTQ community members held spontaneous demonstrations at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, considered by many the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

Welcome Center

Ahead of that festival, on June 1 Cuomo announced the grand opening of the New York State WorldPride Welcome Center, located in New York City’s West Village not far from the Stonewall National Monument.

And on June 5, the LGBTQ Pride Month exhibit opened at the Capitol.

“Pride month is a time to celebrate diversity and acceptance and the progress we’ve made in the fight for full equality, and there is no better place to host the United States’ first WorldPride celebration than in New York,” Cuomo said in a press release.

“Congratulations to our WorldPride ambassadors who are leading the way for LGBTQ rights and showing others around the world what makes New York state so special.”

GENDA protections

New York has made steady progress in supporting LGBTQ rights, the release said. In 2011, lawmakers passed the Marriage Equality Act. Earlier this year, Cuomo signed into law the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and legislation banning the practice of conversion therapy — a landmark victory for the LGBTQ community, the governor’s office said.

Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual.

“Minors are especially vulnerable, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicide,” according to the Human Rights Campaign website.

GENDA prohibits employers, educational institutions, landlords, creditors and others from discriminating against individuals based on gender identity or expression.

And it makes offenses committed on the basis of gender identity or expression hate crimes under state law.

“Point of Pride”

In 2015, New York implemented regulations affirming that all transgender individuals are protected under the state’s Human Rights Law.

Last year, Cuomo nominated Paul Feinman to the state’s highest court — the New York Court of Appeals — where he became the first openly gay person to serve.

“Our history as a leader of the LGBTQ rights movement is a major point of pride for the state of New York,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in the release.

“As we begin Pride Month and mark Stonewall 50, we are recognizing exceptional leaders who will take part in WorldPride events to honor our legacy in the continuing fight for equality. Our ambassadors will highlight our history and celebrate our diverse LGBTQ communities in every region of the state.”

Around New York state

Over the past year, the release said, in partnership with the organizers of WorldPride 2019 and Stonewall 50 (NYC Pride/Heritage of Pride), I LOVE NY has activated at Pride events across the globe to promote travel to the event and the state.

A targeted print and digital advertising campaign has been launched, promoting special WorldPride events happening across the state.

Special events kicked off June 1, with plenty more on the schedule.

Three-day destination weekend Pride on the Beach on Long Island, with more than 30 LGBT events planned June 21 through 23, includes the Twilight Beach Party and Concert on the Beach.

Pride on the Vines, set for June 25, takes place in Long Island Wine Country on the North Fork and features guided tours with tastings, receptions and parties.

The celebration of Stonewall 50 continues at the Chautauqua Institution on July 2 with a special conversation with Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop.

Discussed, too, will be the building of America’s LGBT community through major events including Stonewall, the AIDS crisis and marriage equality.

On July 5 at Niagara Falls, Pride at the Falls will include a free concert by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, with fireworks and the falls lit in rainbow colors.

“I encourage everyone to visit the beautiful Adirondacks, especially the High Peaks region and the Lake Placid Olympic area, when they are in New York celebrating WorldPride,” Metzgar said.

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