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Cuomo Appoints LGBT Liaison

Cuomo Appoints LGBT Liaison


Erik Bottcher, who served as the HIV/AIDS and LGBT liaison for the New York City council, has been appointed to a senior position in the administration of New York governor Andrew Cuomo in a move that could signal an escalated push for marriage equality.

According to a Monday news release from the governor's office, Bottcher was appointed to serve as special assistant for community affairs. The announcement did not provide details about his new role, but the appointee referred questions to a Cuomo spokesman, who confirmed that his portfolio would include LGBT issues as well as other areas.

Bottcher, a 31-year-old gay native of Lake Placid, most recently worked with the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities in New York City on behalf of council speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian. He took leave from the council last fall to serve as the LGBT liaison for the Cuomo campaign, starting his position the same week that Republican gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino warned against children being "brainwashed" into homosexuality.

"Mr. Bottcher is a dedicated advocate for LGBT rights and for the HIV/AIDS community," said Governor Cuomo in the news release. "During his tenure with Speaker Quinn, he was instrumental in advancing New York City's progressive agenda. His experience in public service will be essential to my administration as we move forward," he added.

Cuomo, a Democrat, pledged to make marriage equality a priority during the campaign, and he repeated that commitment earlier this month in his first State of the State address. On Tuesday the New York Daily News reported that state senator Thomas Duane, the out Manhattan lawmaker who sponsored the marriage equality bill that failed to pass in 2009, plans to introduce the bill again "within weeks" and will push for a vote before the end of June. Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican opposed to the bill, has said he would not block a vote, unlike the situation in previous years of GOP senate control.

The appointment of a liaison to LGBT New Yorkers, while not a new idea, represents a departure from recent practice. State government observers say that beginning with Gov. George Pataki in the mid 90s, the use of community liaisons decreased. Governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, both marriage equality backers, had high-ranking gay staff members who worked on LGBT issues while holding other titles.

In addition to Bottcher, Cuomo has appointed Alphonso David, a gay African-American man, to the new position of deputy secretary for civil rights. He had served as special deputy attorney general for civil rights.

"Erik has been a tremendous pubic servant and a great advocate for the LGBT community," said Ross Levi, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the statewide lobbying group, and a member of the Cuomo transition team. "We have no doubt that he will continue to play an important role in Governor Cuomo's administration. This, complemented with the historic appointment of a deputy secretary of civil rights filled by an openly gay African-American man, Alphonso David, creates a terrific team in the governor's office giving careful oversight to LGBT issues."

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