With Pride about to kick off in New York, Cynthia Nixon blamed repeated failures to pass a law protecting transgender New Yorkers from discrimination or another protecting LGBT kids from conversion therapy on Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
To hear anyone call out Cuomo on LGBT rights is unusual. Cuomo is heralded for having signed marriage equality into law in New York, persuading a Republican-controlled Senate to side with him in 2011.
But the governor has not only failed to win over Republicans in fights on trans rights and conversion therapy, Nixon says he’s the one responsible for the laws never being considered in the Senate. Nixon was speaking today during a candidate forum at The Advocate's weeklong Pride Place event in New York City, and she's pressing the issues as part of a pointed Democratic primary challenge to the governor.
Both bills won approval in the Democratic-controlled Assembly multiple times but were never considered in the Senate. In a strange, only-in-New-York scenario, Democrats have held more seats in the Assembly, but a deal struck during Cuomo's first week in office lets Republicans keep control. So it’s Republicans who decide what gets voted on.
Nixon says Cuomo deserves the blame, accusing the governor of backing the deal that lets Republicans control the Senate. Cuomo, considered a moderate Democrat with presidential aspirations, has been accused of wanting a more moderate legislature to help ensure liberal legislation never makes it to his desk.
“Since our governor took office he has empowered a group of Democratic senators who vote with the Republicans, giving the Republicans the control of the state Senate,” she said, in an accusation made many times, including during her announcement of her run for governor. But today, just days before the Pride parade winds through New York City streets, Nixon says that deal is what’s kept transgender New Yorkers from getting protection from GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. That deal is also the reason a ban on conversion therapy for minors isn’t law, as it is in 13 other states, according to Nixon.
“A number of Democratic senators have been plucked off and incentivized to vote with Republicans,” she said, adding that “Andrew Cuomo was very instrumental in creating and upholding the IDC,” which is the Independent Democratic Conference that votes with the GOP.
Cuomo let the group remain in power during his entire first two terms, she said, until earlier this year when he suddenly helped negotiate its end.
“For seven and half years he said he couldn’t do anything about it, I entered the race, two weeks later the IDC was reconciled. It went away,” she said. That sudden move to the left is known in the media as the “Cynthia Nixon Effect,” with the governor recently coming out for legalization of marijuana and other ideas pushed by Nixon.
“One of the reasons that I’m running is we need a Democratic governor who is as progressive as New York itself, and who doesn’t just act like a progressive right before a Democratic primary but actually does it all the time,” said Nixon.
Nixon says it’s “not just GENDA, a whole host of things” that Cuomo has effectively sabotaged with the deal in the Senate. She lists the New York version of the Dream Act, campaign finance reform, voting reform, criminal justice reform, and more.
For his part, Cuomo has always said that the deal in the Senate is the result of infighting in the legislature, which was long known for dysfunction. He said he purposely stayed out of the fighting and let lawmakers decide how to handle things.
Cuomo eventually wrote an executive order, which took effect in 2016, that attempts to order protections provided by GENDA. Nixon noted that the executive order could be undone and that it includes only “some” of GENDA’s protections, not all.
When Cuomo announced he’d brokered a deal with Democrats to return to caucusing with the rest of the party, reporters asked whether Nixon’s primary challenge factored into his decision to do something.
“It had nothing to do with it,” he said.
Watch the complete interview: