Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

February 01, 2020

In Speech at Human Rights Campaign Gala, New York State Reaffirms New York's Nation-leading Support for LGBTQ Community and Announces First State Park Will Be Named after LGBTQ Person

East River State Park in Williamsburg Will Be Named after Marsha P. Johnson — a Pioneer of the LGBTQ Rights Movement and a Transgender Woman of Color 

Renews Call to End New York's Ban on Gestational Surrogacy to Help LGBTQ Couples and People Struggling with Fertility to Start Families

Speaking at the Human Rights Campaign Greater New York Gala, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced he will name the first New York State park after an LGBTQ person. He will direct the State Parks Commissioner to rename East River State Park — located in Brooklyn — after Marsha P. Johnson, a pioneer of the LGBTQ rights movement and a transgender woman of color.

In his remarks, the Governor also reaffirmed New York's nation-leading support for the LGBTQ community and condemned hate crimes and discriminatory policies targeting LGBTQ people.

And the Governor renewed his call to end New York's harmful and antiquated ban on gestational surrogacy to help LGBTQ couples and people struggling with fertility form families. The Governor included a measure in this year's Executive Budget that would legalize the practice, which is allowed in some form in 47 other states.

"New York State is the progressive capital of the nation, and while we are winning the legal battle for justice for the LGBTQ community, in many ways we are losing the broader war for equality," Governor Cuomo said. "Even in New York, attacks against African Americans, Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans and LGBTQ Americans went up by double digits. These attacks are motivated by fear and intolerance against those who are 'different,' and they are blind to the commonality of humanity. We are fighting back, and we will continue achieving progress and showing the rest of the nation the way forward. We will do it again this year by passing gestational surrogacy to complete marriage and family equality. And we will name the first State park after an LGBTQ person and we will name it after Marsha P. Johnson - an icon of the community."

Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman who passed away in 1992, was an LGBTQ civil rights activist and prominent figure in the Stonewall Uprising. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, an activist with ACT UP, and co-founded STAR along with Sylvia Rivera. Born in New Jersey, Marsha moved to Greenwich Village after graduating from high school with just a few dollars at her disposal. She turned her hardships and her struggles with mental illness into activism for others, participating in demonstrations with ACT UP and raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York City. She passed away at age 46 and is remembered as a pioneer of the LGBTQ movement.

Today's announcement reinforces New York State's nation-leading efforts to protect and advance LGBTQ rights. Last year, Governor Cuomo signed into law the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, landmark legislation that prohibits employers, educational institutions, landlords, creditors, and others from discrimination against individuals on the basis of gender identity or expression. Last year the Governor also signed legislation to ban the use of the "gay and trans panic" defense in criminal proceedings. Also last year, as the federal government's transgender military ban took effect, the Governor directed the Division of Veterans' Services, the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, and the Division of Human Rights to provide all necessary services and resources to transgender service members who are displaced by the abhorrent federal policy, which endorses discrimination in the armed forces and undermines national security. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, in 2011 New York was the first big state in the country to enact Marriage Equality.

To build on these achievements, this year Governor Cuomo is proposing legislation to legalize gestational surrogacy in New York State. The legislation will establish criteria for surrogacy contracts that provide the strongest protections in the nation for parents and surrogates, ensuring all parties provide informed consent, and it will create a Surrogates' Bill of Rights, which would ensure the unfettered right of surrogates to make their own healthcare decisions and that surrogates have access to comprehensive health insurance and independent legal counsel of their choosing, all paid for by the intended parents. The legislation also streamlines the process for establishing parentage for children born through surrogacy and other forms of assisted reproduction.