Empire State Pride Agenda Names New Executive Director

Levi will oversee the Pride Agenda, Inc.'s legislative and political activities, as well as the education and community organizing work of the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation. The Pride Agenda is New York’s largest statewide LGBT civil rights organization, with an almost $4 million budget and 25 full-time staff. He will be replacing Executive Director Alan van Capelle who left in February to become Deputy Comptroller for External Affairs with New York City Comptroller John Liu. Levi will assume his new role at the Pride Agenda in June.

In accepting the appointment, Ross Levi pledged to win the fight for equality in New York State:  "We are at a pivotal moment. The majority of New Yorkers support our issues: marriage equality, banning discrimination against transgender New Yorkers, and making sure schools are safe from bias and harassment for all students. Government needs to catch up to where the people already are. This is our opportunity and mandate. A broad and powerful coalition working together—LGBT and straight, upstate and downstate, Republican and Democrat, people of faith, business leaders, organized labor, people of color—this is how equality and justice will be achieved. I believe no organization is better suited to help build and galvanize the movement for LGBT equality and justice than the Empire State Pride Agenda.”

Pride Agenda Board of Directors Co-Chairs Frank Selvaggi and Mitch Karsch made the announcement on behalf of the Pride Agenda Board. Frank Selvaggi said: “During our search, Ross was identified as the strongest candidate for the position because of his long history of service to the organization, vast knowledge of state government and strong connection the statewide LGBT community. The Board feels strongly that Ross is the right leader for us. He has brought and will continue to bring to the Pride Agenda the energy and political skills we need to win equality."  Mitch Karsch said:  “The organizing and education the LGBT community has done around our issues has us positioned to win.  We look forward to Ross continuing to build on that record to pass marriage equality legislation, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and the Dignity for All Students Act.”

Prior to serving as Director of Public Policy & Education, Levi was the Pride Agenda’s Legislative Counsel from 2000 to 2003 and Director of Public Policy and Governmental Affairs from 2004 to 2006. During his time at the Pride Agenda he has been actively involved with the passage of dozens of laws, ordinances, regulations and Executive Orders on the state and local level affecting New York’s LGBT community, including statewide measures like: the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act; the Hate Crimes Act of 2000; making the state’s 9/11 relief inclusive of same-sex couples; guaranteeing domestic partners hospital visitation, legal authority over a loved one’s bodily remains, access to Family Court and medical decision making authority; prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in state employment; and securing over $50 million of funding for LGBT health and human services.

Before joining the Pride Agenda, Levi was Legislative Director for New York State Senator Nellie Santiago of Brooklyn. He began his work in state government in 1997 with a New York State Senate Fellowship. He also served as a legal intern with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Office of Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, Judge David Trager of the Eastern District of New York and the Civil Rights Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

Levi has served on the Board of Directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union Capital Region Chapter, and is currently on their Advisory Committee. He was Co-Counsel to and a member of the Board of Directors of the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council (CDGLCC) in Albany, and has been awarded their Council Leadership Award and Harvey Milk Award. The Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club has also recognized him for his service to the Capital District’s LGBT community. He was also a longtime member of Heritage of Pride. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Equality Federation, the national alliance of state-based LGBT advocacy organizations, on its Executive Committee as Secretary and as Chair of its Governance Committee.

Levi graduated from Brooklyn Law School and Boston University. He lives in rural Stephentown, NY with his partner.


  1. TANK says

    You know on A&W bottles where it says “made with aged vanilla”? I often wonder how long it’s aged. What does aged vanilla add that regular vanilla (extract, probly) doesn’t add to the flavor? A question to ponder before having a stroke…the bad kind. Oh yah, results. We need more results based activism and advocacy…all that matters.

  2. says

    Tank go be a nonsensical cow somwhere else since you seem to be rambing at 3:04 in the morning. Those who are ugly, are micro dicked and who drink too much tend to do that ya know…

    Jesus fucking christ can’t we put this heifer out the pasture for good?

  3. evan says

    I find the way ESPA board handled all of this distressing and unprofessional. And while Ross sounds like a decent guy, it is also true that he’s been a part of the ESPA machinery which has hardly distinguished itself in recent years. Count me among those who hopes Fight Back NY brings some new leadership on these issues in NYS.

  4. 24play says

    I disagree that ESPA “has hardly distinguished itself in recent years.”

    Although they both passed the NY Assembly years ago, our two main legislative objectives—marriage equality and GENDA—had repeatedly been blocked because the Republicunt-controlled NY senate refused to even bring them up for votes.

    ESPA announced that it intended to overcome that obstacle by giving Democrats control of the Senate. The group poured cash and energy into a number of carefully targeted races and succeeded in turning enough seats to give Democrats a majority for the first time in decades. As a result, we finally got a floor vote on marriage equality in the senate.

    No, that vote didn’t go our way. And, yes, the number of votes in favor was significantly less than any of us had hoped—and less than ESPA had suggested.

    Nonetheless, by turning the senate, ESPA achieved the goal it set for itself. Expecting a pro-marriage vote in the first year of NARROW Democratic control was a little unrealistic.

    We made tremendous progress in the past two years, and with another Democratic governor in place next year, we have a very good shot at making both GENDA and marriage equality the law of the land in New York in the next few years.

  5. TANK says

    24play, are you a lackey? Progress doesn’t count. Only results. What we try to do is irrelevant.

  6. TANK says

    It’s a little early for any blackslapping, and an appointment should never be cause for any celebration…

  7. 24play says

    Tank, if you made an appointment with a mental health professional, it certainly would be cause for celebration around here.

  8. TANK says

    It’s just that you’re old, 24play, and support things like “progress” without any tangible results to measure it by…it’s pathetic.

  9. 24play says

    Getting a floor vote in the NY senate for the first time ever WAS a measurable result, Tank. ESPA set a specific goal and delivered.

    Now they’re focused on enlarging the Democratic majority in the Senate and replacing foes of marriage equality with supporters. That is also a goal with metrics that can be measured in order to assess ESPA’s success or failure.

    The root of “progressive” is “progress.’ And that’s how communities achieve their goals—one step at a time.

  10. TANK says

    You may think getting a vote that “didn’t go our way” is progress, but it’s not. The fact of a vote alone doesn’t matter, as the outcome is the same: no marriage equality in NY (iowa’s a superior state when it comes to progressive legislation and social justice, and don’t ever forget it). Once again, people and organizations aren’t remembered so much for what they tried to do, but what they actually did. And I don’t call it progress when the consequence makes no difference to the situation to be rectified. It sounds self serving, defeatist, and really corrupt.

  11. 24play says

    I’m sorry, Tank, that you continue to confuse “progress” and “goal.” Progress is what one makes toward a goal.

    Here’s the first definition of “progress” from dictionary.com: a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage.

    Perhaps if you reread that a few times, you may begin to grasp the concept.

  12. TANK says

    Nope…to use your metaphor, movement toward something entails a change of position. Marriage equality doesn’t exist in new york just as it didn’t before the vote, so no change of position. You’re an apologist for heretofore ineffective organizations (the exact same defense of ESPA that you’re mounting could be given of HRC)…which is very suspicious and nullifies criticism of the previous contender…perhaps this was anothe inside job.

  13. TANK says

    And no, 24play, the thought doesn’t count at all. Get it, you sentimental old fuck?

  14. 24play says

    Keep at it, Tank. Someday you might understand how the political process works.

    Might even become less of a boor.

  15. TANK says

    Oh good, now you’re appealing to the opacity of the political process (it’s just so complicated! A defeat is a victory!) in defense of failure (which has no defense…it’s failure). It’s a glorified appeal to ignorance.

  16. Rob G. says

    Tank, cupcake, what have you accomplished?

    What are your achievements?

    Lots of bluster from someone who has not claimed any tangible results…

    Please, indulge us.

    Otherwise, simmer down.

  17. TANK says

    What does what I have accomplished have to do with what ESPA has accomplished to date? More ridiculous invalid reasoning. That’s called an ad hom.

  18. Emelye Waldherr says

    While ESPA may have achieved some successes, they still went very wrong in their priorities (but what else is new?). Calling for the marriage vote was ill timed and premature. Ignoring GENDA, and all gender variant gay, lesbian and straight New Yorkers in order to make that vote happen was an egregious failure on their part.

    I fear their appointment of an ESPA insider will just continue this sorry state of affairs. They need to make good on their 2002 promise of “coming back” for the trans community. I hope the new ED will recognize this and begin to repair the dismal record ESPA has generated in the past regarding civil rights protections for transgender people.

  19. Rob G. says

    “What does what I have accomplished have to do with what ESPA has accomplished to date? More ridiculous invalid reasoning. That’s called an ad hom.”

    So you’ve done nothing.

    In which case, shut the fuck up while the adults make progress.

  20. TANK says

    First of all, what i’ve done, what ESPA has done (which is NOTHING of any significance as of late), and what I wrote are logically discrete. That they are logically discrete doesn’t imply what I’ve done or not done just like the fact that ESPA has made NO PROGRESS doesn’t imply anything about me…and given that they’re discrete, they don’t entail each other. Adults make progress? What progress? Shut up, rob. Let the adults do the thinking, and keep your bitter old queen routine to yourself.