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Photo courtesy of Catalina Cruz
Photo courtesy of Catalina Cruz
Catalina Cruz holds a roundtable discussion ahead of rolling out her platform to support the LGBT community in Queens.

State Assembly hopeful Catalina Cruz unveiled on May 24 plans to support the LGBT community in Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona, including passing legislation protecting gender identity and expression under human rights law.

The candidate for State Assembly in District 39 held a roundtable discussion with LGBT representatives from these neighborhoods. Following the discussion, Cruz created a plan that would offer protection, education and resources to members of the community.

Her top priority in the initiative was passing the the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would legally protect gender identity and expression. This piece of legislation would ensure that people in the LGBT community would receive equal healthcare and health insurance, while ensuring the “cultural competency” of health and social service providers.

In addition to passing GENDA, Cruz’s plan includes banning conversion therapy, protecting LGBT students from bullying and providing comprehensive sex education in schools.

“Our LGBT community is part of the fabric of who we are. They are our family, friends and neighbors. Although our city and state have made some great strides towards advancing LGBT rights, much more remains to be done to achieve true equality and ensure the protections and services they deserve. Our campaign’s LGBT platform is crafted by the community, for the community. And with these critical policy reforms and initiatives, we can begin to address the many inequalities and injustices that still exist for LGBT families and individuals,” Cruz said.

The initiative is central to her campaign platform in which she works to combat “discriminatory practices in the workplace, in housing and in public accommodations.” Activists, representatives from organizations and members of the community who were involved in the discussion praised Cruz’s efforts to address the community’s issues and find concrete solutions.

“As the struggle for true equality continues, we need leaders in Albany with the strength to bend the arc toward justice,” LGBT activist Brendan Fay said. “New York’s LGBT community continues to face discrimination in many forms and I’m proud to support Catalina’s plan because it will address those challenges head-on.”

Other facets of Cruz’s plan include teaching LGBT history in schools and finding “culturally competent” social service providers. The plan highlighted the importance of including of key moments in the gay right movement and important figures in the community. Educators would be provided with the appropriate material to teach students of all ages.

Nicolas Cortez, a member of the Sadie Nash Leadership project, expressed his appreciation for Cruz emphasizing LGBT history in schools.

“As a trans teenager, I’m especially pleased to see Catalina Cruz’s plan focus on incorporating LGBT history as part of our education, and making our classroom environments safer by tackling bullying and harassment. She’s a real advocate for our LGBT community and I know she will fight for true equality when she goes to Albany,” Cortez said.

In addition, the initiative also included a plan to help the aging LGBT population live safe and comfortable lives, by finding them supportive housing, making those houses “senior friendly” and restoring benefits to LGBT veterans who may have lost them due to their sexual orientation.

Cruz is challenging new Assemblywoman Ari Espinal, who was elected in an April special election, in the September statewide primary.

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