The City College of New York

The series of lectures, conversations, film showings, exhibitions, and courses brings together faculty, students, and staff at CCNY and the New York City community to examine human rights through multiple lenses.


LGBT Rights as Human Rights - Wednesday, October 29, 2014

6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

City College of New York

Uptown campus: Shepard Hall, Room 250.

SUBWAYS: Take 1 train to 137th Street and walk up 137th Street; or A, C, B, D to 145th and walk south on Convent Avenue.

Please join us for a panel discussion on "LGBT Rights as Human Rights," featuring New York State Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, a prime sponsor of the Marriage Equality Act; Charles Radcliffe, Chief of the Global Issues Section of the UN Human Rights Office in New York as well as Senior UN Human Rights Adviser on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, founder of St. Paul's Reconciliation and Equality Centre, which defends the human rights of marginalized and LGBT people, particularly in Uganda; Val Kalende, Ugandan LGBT activist and Fellow, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; and moderated by Andrea Weiss, Professor of Media Communication Arts at CCNY and an internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker and nonfiction author.  From local and global perspectives, the panelists will reflect on the recent cultural and political shifts in which LGBT rights have suddenly become part of the global conversation. The panel will discuss the gains made locally, nationally and globally in terms of marriage equality. The speakers will look at how these gains came about, and consider the paradox between newly won rights and protections on the one hand, and the persistence of socially acceptable violence and discrimination on the other.

Photo by Horman Truth.

Daniel O’Donnell was elected to represent the 69th District in the New York State Assembly in 2002. As the first openly gay man elected to the Assembly, he joined Deborah Glick, the first openly LGBT member of the New York State Legislature. He has been a pioneer of progressive policies supporting the LGBT community, not to mention fair and sensible legislation for all. He spearheaded the effort to legalize same-sex marriage beginning in 2004, when he and his partner became plaintiffs in the Marriage Equality case before the New York State Court of Appeals. He then shepherded the Marriage Equality Act to passage in the Assembly five times in four years, including its final successful passage in June 2011, when the bill was finally signed into law. During his tenure in the Assembly, Assembly Member O’Donnell has also been the prime sponsor of several trailblazing, successful bills, most notably the Dignity for All Students Act, which requires public schools in New York to combat bias-based bullying and harassment. The Dignity for All Students Act is one of the first New York State laws explicitly addressing gender identity and expression. In 2013, Assembly Member O’Donnell was named Chair of the Correction Committee.


Charles Radcliffe is Chief of the Global Issues Section at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York, responsible for coordinating work on a range of thematic human rights issues – from gender to racial discrimination, sexual violence, disability rights, human rights and counter-terrorism, and human rights and development.  In addition, Charles serves as the United Nations’ senior human rights adviser on sexual orientation and gender identity, and, over the past four years, has been closely involved in efforts to raise awareness at the United Nations of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination. He also leads Free & Equal – a global UN public information campaign launched in 2013 and dedicated to promoting greater respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Prior to joining the United Nations in 2006, Charles helped establish and develop the International Crisis Group—a non-governmental organization dedicated to preventing and resolving deadly conflict. Recruited at Crisis Group’s inception in 1995, he remained with the organization for eleven years, including seven years as the organization’s vice-president. Charles previously worked as a political adviser and speechwriter for several British and Australian politicians. He holds a First Class Honours Degree in Law from King’s College London and a Masters Degree in International Relations from Sydney University.


Photo: Joshua Kristal

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo is an alumnus of Union Theological Seminary, where he is currently a visiting scholar. He received a D. Min (Doctor of Ministry) degree at Hartford Seminary in 1983. Bishop Senyonjo  is the founder of St. Paul's Reconciliation and Equality Centre, which defends the human rights of marginalized and LGBT people, particularly in Uganda. He retired from the Anglican Church of Uganda after serving as diocesan bishop for 24 years. He is currently  a visiting scholar at Union Theological Seminary writing his new book, "My Memoirs".



Val Kalende is an activist and writer on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues in Uganda and is on the board of Freedom and Roam Uganda and an activist in Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), one of the oldest LGBTQ activist group in Uganda. Since 2009, Val Kalende publicly opposed the Ugandan anti-homosexual bill that would impose life imprisonment and the death penalty on homosexuals. Val Kalende has written several articles and statements about the homophobia and violence in Uganda and the  anti-homosexual bill or the “kill the gays bill”, presented these issues concerning LGBTQ rights in Uganda at several venues around the world, and has been interviewed by the New York Times.



Andrea Weiss, Professor of Film/Video at the City College of New York, is an internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker and nonfiction author.  Her many film credits include Escape To LifeSeed Of Sarah, Paris Was A Woman, International Sweethearts Of Rhythm, and Before Stonewall (for which she won an Emmy Award), among others.  Her award-winning book Paris Was A Woman, on which her documentary of the same name is based, was re-issued in 2013 by Counterpoint Press and has been translated into French, German, Spanish, Korean, Croatian, and Japanese. Her book, In The Shadow Of The Magic Mountain: The Erika And Klaus Mann Story (University of Chicago Press, 2008), won a Publishing Triangle Award. Weiss has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the D.A.A.D. Artist Program in Berlin.   She also is a recent Fulbright Scholar Award recipient, and will spend 2015 in Barcelona producing a film on LGBT history in light of the historical memory movement in Spain.


Special thanks to Susanna Schaller, Andrea Weiss, Alessandra Benedicty, Danielle Zach, Dee Dee Mozeleski, and Brandon Juddel.

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