Late in his first State of the State address to the members of the Legislature of the State of New York, on January 5, entitled “New York at a Crossroads: A Transformational Plan for a New New York,” New York’s 56th Governor, Andrew Cuomo, expressed his support for marriage equality.
In a section of the annual message, concerning “Equality for All New Yorkers,” the new governor said, “Fairness demands that marriage equality become a reality now. New York has been surpassed by many other countries which have legalized marriage for same-sex couples including Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden and Portugal; as well as by many states including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire. Marriage equality is a question of principle and the State should not discriminate against same-sex couples who wish to get married. Without marriage equality same-sex couples, and their families, are unjustly denied over 1,000 federal and 700 state rights and responsibilities. For instance, spouses have hospital visitation rights and can make medical decisions in the event of illness or disability of their spouse; employers offer spouses sick leave, bereavement leave, access to health insurance and pension; and the law provides certain automatic rights to a person’s spouse regardless of whether or not a will exists. None of these rights exist automatically for same-sex couples in the absence of marriage.
Therefore, we must make marriage equality a reality.”
Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) Executive Director Ross D. Levi commended Governor Cuomo, saying, “The Pride Agenda is very pleased that Governor Cuomo in his State of the State address specifically included LGBT New Yorkers in his vision of a great Empire State. He has strongly and repeatedly shown his support for LGBT fairness and equality, and the affirmation today of his commitment to see marriage for loving same-sex couples become law in New York State is another indication of that support. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and Lt. Governor Robert Duffy–and elected officials throughout the state–to move forward on marriage equality, fighting transgender discrimination and the many other LGBT issues that are supported by a majority of New Yorkers.”
On January 3, in his Executive Order Number 2, Review, Continuation and Expiration of Prior Executive Orders, Cuomo ordered the continuation of former Governor David A. Paterson’s Executive Order Number 33, issued on December 16, 2009, and Prohibiting Discrimination in State Employment on the Basis of Gender Identity.
Cuomo also appointed Alphonso David—formerly New York State’s Special Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights, Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Division of Human Rights, and a staff attorney at Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund—to the newly-created position of Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights.
Summing up these actions, ESPA’s Levi further commented, “In the first few days of his administration, Governor Cuomo has taken concrete action to prohibit transgender discrimination, created a historic position in his administration to oversee civil rights, appointed a gay, African-American man to fill that position and included marriage equality in his State of the State presentation. These important steps show the Governor’s commitment to creating a fair Empire State for all New Yorkers, and at the same time underscore an important political reality: An ever-increasing number of New Yorkers and Americans want fairness and equality for their LGBT family members, friends and neighbors, and expect their elected officials to work to achieve those goals.”
Founded in 1990, ESPA is “New York's statewide civil rights and advocacy group committed to achieving full equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers and our families [which] fights for these priorities by: educating policymakers, elected officials and the public; building coalitions and mobilizing allies; lobbying government officials; administering a Political Action Committee; and organizing and empowering the LGBT community.”