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Cuomo Wants Marriage Equality for N.Y.

Cuomo Wants Marriage Equality for N.Y.


New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that he wants to be the governor who makes "equality a reality" in his state.

Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for governor, spoke in Manhattan during the reception before the fall dinner of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the statewide LGBT lobbying group. His brief remarks, which included a denunciation of the agenda of his Republican opponent, Carl Paladino, set the tone for an evening focused on the upcoming elections under the pall of recent LGBT youth suicides and a brutal gang-related hate crime in the Bronx.

"Let me be clear," said Cuomo, who has not yet been endorsed by the Pride Agenda. "I don't want to be the governor who just proposes marriage equality. I don't want to be the governor who lobbies for marriage equality. I don't want to be the governor who fights for marriage equality. I want to be the governor who signs the law that makes equality a reality in the state of New York."

Cuomo also took the opportunity to condemn the "extremist" agenda represented by Carl Paladino, who last weekend said that children should not be "brainwashed" into believing homosexuality is acceptable, and criticized the attorney general for taking his daughters to the gay pride parade.

"Make no mistake," said Cuomo. "We are looking at an extremist political agenda on the other side of this election."

The premier gay political event of the season in New York, the dinner drew some 1,200 attendees to mingle with elected officials across the city and state, while raising $1 million, according to organizers. Actress Sarah Jessica Parker and Bravo's Andy Cohen hosted the event.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke and pledged to help continue the fight for safe schools and marriage equality, while Gov. David Paterson, in his final appearance before the dinner as governor, continued the attack against Paladino. The governor said the Buffalo businessman's lips were "dripping with words of homophobia and hypocrisy," and criticized Paladino for waiting days to talk about the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi and the antigay hate attack and torture against a man and two teenagers in the Bronx.

New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn, who is gay, announced a new public service advertising campaign to celebrate diversity and condemn hate crimes. The campaign, Love Love. Hate Hate., will use city-sponsored print, TV and radio ads to deliver its message across the five boroughs beginning October 22.

With Cuomo leading polls for the governor's race, issues such as marriage equality and transgender rights could turn on the outcome in the state senate, a point emphasized in remarks by new Pride Agenda executive director Ross Levi.

"These next few weeks and the upcoming elections will determine whether our current checklist is achieved in one years or ten, and the stakes couldn't be higher," he said. "Will we achieve a transgender civil rights law, marriage equality and adequate government support for health and human services? These elections will decide."

Earlier this week, senate Republican leader Dean Skelos changed the calculus when he told the New York Log Cabin Republicans that, in contrast to years past, if his party takes over the majority, he would "recommend" that the marriage equality bill be brought to the floor again for an up or down vote. Democrats hold a slim 32-30 lead in the senate, where the marriage equality bill failed by a 38-24 vote last year, with no Republican support and eight Democrats voting against it.

Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also addressed the dinner, where they expressed their disappointment in the Obama administration's move Thursday to appeal the ruling from a federal judge in California that blocked enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Despite the setback, the senators predicted that the policy would be repealed this year.

"I'm very disappointed to hear that the administration has asked for an emergency stay of the judge's most recent ruling that deemed 'don't ask, don't tell' unconstitutional," said Gillibrand, the dinner's keynote speaker, who led 20 Senate colleagues in sending a letter urging Attorney General Eric Holder not to appeal the ruling. "But at the end of the day we are not going to be deterred. This is a battle that we will win. This is a fight we will not give up on, and I will say, we will achieve repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' this year."
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