The Honorable Andrew Cuomo
The State of New York
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
June 25, 2011
Dear Mr. President,
Thanks for dropping by New York City on Thursday night (you made a killing in the City didn’t you with three fundraising events? What was your total cash haul?) and thanks for your kind mention that the New York State government is an appropriate venue for a democratic process that has been engaged in a debate on marriage equality for gays.
Sorry I couldn’t join you on the dais — especially at the Sheraton Hotel where you were hosting affluent LGBT supporters — and watch you dance around the issue of marriage equality. LGBT civil rights issues are now confronting the country and it seems you really can avoid it.
Perhaps you were aware that I had been knee-deep in marriage equality negotiations with members of the legislature and the LGBT advocacy community. Marriage equality has been a major priority for me which I had mentioned numerous times while campaigning for governor last year.
So I have been engaged, or rather, seized up here in Albany with the issue and couldn’t break away to watch you tippy-toe around the LGBT community and stop short of endorsing marriage equality while taking their money and running back to D.C.
I read your precise words were that New York “is doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do,” debating tough issues and proving “the power of our democratic system.”
In my official capacity as governor of New York, the Empire State–I can report to you a bit of news this morning that we made last night. Five minutes before midnight I signed into law a marriage equality bill enabling gays and lesbians to marry in 30 days (yes, we did show the country that advancing people’s civil rights can be done and promises can be kept).
Here is my press statement which you can share with Dan Pheiffer, your communications director. He can quote me (I stand by my words):
“New York has finally torn down the barrier that has prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and families take for granted.”
“With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law. With this vote, marriage equality will become a reality in our state, delivering long overdue fairness and legal security to thousands of New Yorkers.”
We already recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions here in the Empire State.
I have probably given you a re-elect problem to deal with, but you and Attorney General Eric Holder stopped defending the god-awful Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) earlier this year because of someone’s belief in the Department of Justice that DOMA is unconstitutional. So New York just gave you some cover and you can thank me and the legislature for reinforcing your legal arguments.
One thing I have learned from my father, Mario, is that you have to lean into these issues and embrace them as history surely illustrates. New York has a great tradition in advancing civil rights: In Seneca Falls, New York was where the women’s suffrage movement began in 1848. New York City was where the labor movement began following the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory burning in 1911 and of course, the modern gay rights movement was born during the riots that took place at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969.
New York had fallen behind history on LGBT rights, but I made sure last night that we got back on the right side.
So let me just say Mr. President, you should get on the right side of history too. The polling data is really good (take a look at 18-35 year-olds and how progressive they are on social issues) and last month’s Gallup poll was the first to find a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.
So Mr. President I advise you to go for it–embrace LGBT civil rights and certify the DADT implementation to the Congress for god’s sakes, already.
This is the moment to embrace your inner “fierce advocate” and know that the LGBT community won’t leave you holding the bag.
From the “Shining City on the Hill” and yours in an Empire State of Mind,
P.S. Already thinking Cuomo for Prez ’16. Will you write me a check?
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.
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