By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com October 25 2011 10:45 AM ET
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a group of evangelical Protestants opposed to the marriage equality law, wants Governor Andrew Cuomo to apologize for calling their stance “anti-American” during a panel discussion last week.
Last Tuesday, Cuomo headlined a panel discussion presented by The New York Times that offered a behind-the-scenes look at how the bill passed the Republican-controlled state senate in June and became law. During the question and answer session, an audience member asked what lessons the New York victory could offer other states and the federal-level fight for same-sex marriage.
Saying that he believed progress for marriage equality nationwide was “just a matter of time,” Cuomo pointed to the unsatisfactory arguments of opponents as the fundamental reason why. Earlier, when political reporter Michael Barbaro, who moderated the conversation with metro editor Carolyn Ryan, asked Cuomo what arguments against the bill in New York he had found “persuasive,” the governor said “none.”
“Ultimately, there was no answer by the opposition,” said Cuomo again. “There isn’t. There really isn’t. And as soon as you ask the question and you probe the answer, the only answer is, ‘I want to discriminate against gay people.’ And that is anti-New York. It’s also anti-American.”
On Monday, the Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, issued an open letter to the governor that asked him to apologize for remarks that “question the patriotism of 150 million (or more) Americans." He referred to a May 2011 Gallup Poll as evidence that Americans are “split” on the question of same-sex marriage, but the poll showed that a majority of Americans favored same-sex marriage by 53% to 45%.
"To the Governor I say, you were elected to represent all New Yorkers, but your recent comments attack half of the state you lead and the nation you call home,” wrote McGuire. “Retract your comments and apologize to millions of New Yorkers and other proud Americans you have offended.”
Cuomo has not responded to the demand for an apology, but his remarks at the panel discussion and on a related subject suggest his likely thinking. He said previously that New York town clerks who do not want to issue same-sex marriage licenses should step down from the positions. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms is assisting a handful of such clerks through its Courage Fund, which created a video project on their behalf. The clerks also have backing from the National Organization for Marriage.
“If you’re against gay marriage, then don’t marry a gay person,” said Cuomo. "That’s the right of the opposition. Otherwise, don’t discriminate.”
The words appear to be a new catchphrase for the governor. He repeated them last Tuesday
night when he accepted The Huffington Post's Game Changer of The Year
Award for his work on marriage equality.
The invitation-only panel discussion was sponsored by The New York Times Company’s GLBT & Allies Network. Other panelists included New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Republican state senator James Alesi, and political consultant Bruce N. Gyory.