Responds: A Politician's Past
BY Matthew Breen
March 01 2012 5:00 AM ET
Frank Rich makes an important point in his article
“Whitewashing Gay History” for New York
magazine this week. The former columnist for The New York Times argues that in order for the LGBT community to move
forward most successfully, we should remember the recent past, when many
leading Democratic politicians who now support marriage equality opposed the
We couldn’t agree more with Rich. The history of antigay
discrimination must never be forgotten, and elected officials who come to
embrace marriage equality should be examined as instructional examples of
change and growth.
That’s why we reject Rich’s assertion that The Advocate “failed to confront” one such individual, Andrew
Cuomo, in a “worshipful cover story” following passage of the marriage equality
law in New York. Reporter Julie Bolcer’s conversation with the governor took
place less than two weeks after he signed the marriage equality bill into law
last summer, giving our movement one of its biggest victories in years, not to
mention a desperately needed jolt of momentum that continues to spark
reverberations throughout the country. So, we have to ask, what’s wrong with a
largely laudatory piece to mark that historic achievement and leadership?
Given the rapidly moving timeline of the marriage equality
fight, we’re hard pressed to name a top politician who has always supported the
issue in his or her career. The list of figures who have changed their stance
also includes the governors of Washington and Maryland, who this year
shepherded marriage equality bills to passage in their state legislatures. We
find it perfectly appropriate to celebrate them for their contributions, and we
hope that more leaders will join them.
Rich implied that we did not inform readers of Governor Cuomo’s
past position, where he supported civil unions until he ran for attorney
general in 2006, long after other New York politicians had endorsed marriage
equality. He suggested that we had missed an opportunity to draw a lesson for
other public figures, including President Obama.
“At a time when
the most powerful Democrat in the nation still cynically purports to be
‘evolving’ on same-sex marriage, the cautionary tale of Andrew Cuomo’s tardy
evolution, particularly if told openly by Cuomo himself, might move hearts and
minds in the White House much as his example helped sway once-hostile lawmakers
in Albany,” wrote Rich.
The fact is, we did discuss the political evolution of
Cuomo, and we asked the governor what instructional value his own journey might
hold for other elected officials. Here is what he had to say, in his own words.
“We all like to say, ‘Oh, change is a good thing.’ We don’t
really feel that way,” he said. “It’s threatening, change. It’s also
highlighted in the political arena because then people will point out a change.
The suggestion is ... [the fact] that you changed is a negative. No!” Cuomo
countered, his voice rising. “We evolve, we grow. Society evolves, society
We sure hope other politicians keep listening. The
Advocate will continue challenging and
applauding them along the way.
(RELATED: Read the Andrew Cuomo cover story)
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