Wednesday, September 23, 2015



Please Ask Your NY Bishops to Follow Your Lead on Child Sex Abuse Offences to Show Mercy for Survivors NY is Among the Worst States in all America for How Victims Are Treated and NY’s Bishops are the Biggest Roadblock to Reform of Our Archaic Statute of Limitations 
 Amid the excitement over the momentous U.S. visit of Pope Francis this month, little attention has been directed to one of the most urgent topics of concern among many New York Catholics: the scourge of childhood sexual abuse. One in five American children are victims of this abuse, most by family, acquaintances or others they trust and respect. We read reports from several major U.S. Catholic dioceses that abusers include clergy and others within their orbit. Even though these cases may only be a small percentage of the total, the systematic cover-up and protection of abusers has brought shame to the Catholic Church as notorious examples reveal how church leaders have hidden pedophiles, sometimes even leaving them free to continue their despicable crimes. Those of us in New York who are battling this scourge were encouraged this year by the strong message of Pope Francis to his Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. We took particular note of his reminder that there is no place in the ministry for abusers and his call to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for past victims of abuse. Then he created a Vatican Tribunal to hold bishops accountable for cover-ups or failing to prevent abuse within their jurisdictions. His views, backed up by his actions, were warmly greeted here. In New York, as in many states, the fight to address childhood sexual abuse and get justice for survivors has been directed at reform of archaic statutes of limitations (SOLs) that restrict the time for victims to report crimes against them by abusers and the organizations that hid or protected them. Under current law NY victims of child sex abuse must come forward to bring criminal or civil charges within five years after their 18th birthday. Otherwise they forever lose the opportunity. Extensive, creditable research shows, however, that many if not most abuse survivors do not come to grips with what happened to them until well into adulthood, if ever. The U.S. Justice Department says only 10 percent of child sex abuse cases are ever reported. To whittle away at the other 90 percent, a national movement to reform statute of limitations laws, state-by-state, has seen many expanding or eliminating statute of --- continued --- --- page 2 --- limitations codes to give survivors more time to come forward. These include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Delaware and Connecticut. New York however, currently ranks among the very worst states in all of America for how it deals with victims of child sexual abuse crimes --- right at the bottom of all 50 states along with Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Indiana --- according to a survey by Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University. To bring New York out of its bottom ranking, Senator Brad Hoylman and I introduced the Child Victims Act of New York (A2872A/S63A). It will completely eliminate the civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse crimes in the future. In addition, it will suspend the civil statute for one year to give older victims an opportunity to get justice. Equally important, it will also expose predators that have been hidden and remain free to abuse new generations of children. Even though the measure has strong support in the Assembly, it faces resistance in the State Senate and the most vocal opponent of this SOL reform is the New York Catholic Conference of Bishops. According to Catholic Whistleblowers, a distinguished group of religious leaders and canon law experts, this opposition directly contradicts the reforms in the Church’s own changes in Canon Law in 2001, 2003 and 2010 relating to statues of limitations and as well as the views expressed by Pope Francis on the subject. Earlier this year I wrote to His Holiness Pope Francis and asked for his help in convincing the Bishops of New York to follow his lead. Reforming the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse will better protect children in the future and bring justice and relief to older victims who continue to suffer from the long-lasting effects of what they endured at the hands of abusers. After Washington, Pope Francis will visit two states in America. One, Pennsylvania, has taken significant steps over recent years to reform its SOL codes to make them better for children and survivors. New York is a very different story. I respectfully plead with Pope Francis to intervene with New York Bishops, to melt their hearts, to convince them to adopt his own message of healing and reconciliation toward survivors of child sexual abuse. With New York as one of the very worst states in America for how it treats victims of child sex abuse, it is the Bishops of New York State who are the biggest roadblock to changing that. There is no limit to what is a lifetime of suffering for many survivors of abuse and there should be no limit on the ability of society to hold abusers accountable. Eliminating New York’s statute of limitations for these crimes will provide justice for victims and expose those pedophiles that have been hidden by institutions like his church. I ask the Holy Father to melt the hearts of his New York Bishops so they can be transformed from opponents into supporters of statute of limitations reform. --- September 23, 2015 --- 000 --- Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), is the prime sponsor of the Child Victims Act of NY (A2872A/S63A), which would eliminate the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse offenses. The act has been adopted four times in the Assembly, but has never come to the floor of the State Senate for a vote. For media information: Michael Armstrong, 718-651-3185, 917-279-8437,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015



Fifty years ago, as President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act, he said, "Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield."

The analogy  was apt. People had indeed given their blood -- and in some cases even their lives -- fighting for the right to vote.
It was also accurate. The Voting Rights Act (VRA) secured and safeguarded the right to vote for millions of Americans, making it among the most important milestones of the civil rights movement and perhaps its most effective legislative achievement.
For decades before the enactment of the VRA, states had used laws -- including literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and poll taxes -- to prevent African Americans from voting. Although, when challenged, the courts almost always struck down the laws as unconstitutional, it sometimes took years for the cases to make their way through the court system. By the time the courts struck down one law, legislators had passed another discriminatory law to take its place.
The VRA changed the equation. By not only outlawing discrimination in voting around the country, but also requiring the historically worst offenders - both states and local jurisdictions - to "preclear" their proposed changes to voting practices with the federal government before going into place, the VRA opened the door for those previously silenced by discrimination to make their voices heard.
And the VRA's success was clear almost immediately. After 1965, African American voter registration rates skyrocketed. The number of African Americans elected to public office increased fivefold within five years of the VRA's passage. By the early 2000s, there were more than 9,000 African American elected officials in the United States - including the first African American president--and most were from areas required to preclear their laws with the federal government.
In 2013, however, in a case called Shelby County v. Holder, a deeply divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down a critical part of the VRA, essentially gutting the heart of the legislation. Although the court affirmed that the idea of preclearance was constitutional, it struck down the formula used to determine which states and localities would have to preclear their laws, effectively ending the practice of preclearance.
In a powerful dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, "Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away an umbrella in a rainstorm because you're not getting wet."
As Justice Ginsburg and the other dissenters had foreseen, the storms rolled in immediately. Within hours of the Supreme Court's decision, Texas, North Carolina, and other states put into effect discriminatory voting laws that had been previously blocked by federal courts reviewing the policies as part of the preclearance procedure.
Texas, for example, immediately revived a redistricting plan that a federal court had refused to preclear before Shelby County, finding "more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space or need to address here," and put into effect a voter ID lawthat another federal court had blocked, concluding that "simply put, many Hispanics and African Americans who voted in the last elections will, because of the burdens imposed by SB 14, likely be unable to vote."
Since then, states and localities around the county have passed dozens of laws that threaten to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, disproportionately impacting communities of color, the elderly, people with disabilities, students, and poor people.
When the Supreme Court struck down the formula used to determine which states would have to preclear their laws, it expressly left open the door for Congress to create a new formula.
Recently, Congress has answered that call. A new bill has been introduced in both the House and the Senate - the Voting Rights Advancement Act - which would revive the crucial voting rights protections of the VRA by creating a new formula for preclearance, putting in place additional safeguards for voting, and once more helping to ensure that all Americans can have their say in our democracy.
In 2006, the last year in which Congress voted on reauthorization of the VRA, support for continuing the law's critical safeguards was bipartisan and nearly unanimous. The vote was 390 to 33 in the House of Representatives (including over 150 current Representatives) and 98 to 0 in the Senate (including over 30 current Senators).
That same bipartisan support for the VRA is more important today than ever before. In this moment when our country seems polarized on so many issues and tensions are uncomfortably high, an endorsement from both sides of the aisle for the VRA would be a powerful sign of democratic renewal and national civility at a time when such behaviors are in short supply.
As we gear up for the 2016 election -- the first presidential election since the Supreme Court crippled the VRA's protections -- we need, as President Johnson said, a new triumph for freedom to match any won on a battlefield.
On the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, it is time to legislate, not just commemorate.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


The festival of  Rosh Hashanah the JEWISH NEW YEAR —the name means “CELEBRATION OF THE NEW YEAR”—is observed for two days beginning on the first day of the Jewish year. It is the anniversary of the creation of  Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in  G‑d’s world and making this world a better place for all.
Rosh Hashanah thus emphasizes the special relationship between G‑d and humanity: our dependence upon G‑d as our creator and sustainer, and G‑d’s dependence upon us as the ones who make His presence known and felt in His world. Each year on Rosh Hashanah, “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die . . . who shall be impoverished, and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.” But this is also the day we proclaim G‑d  King of the Universe. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe is dependent upon the  renewal of the divine desirefor a world when we accept G‑d’s kingship each year on Rosh Hashanah.
The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the  shofar, the ram’s horn, which also represents the trumpet blast of a people’s coronation of their king. The cry of the  shofar is also a call to  repentance, for Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of  man’s first sin and his repentance thereof, and serves as the first of the “ Ten Days of Repentance” 

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.


Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.


The father of labor day
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.
Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."
But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.


The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.
In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.


Women's Auxiliary Typographical Union
The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.
The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.