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Responds: A Politician's Past 

Responds: A Politician's Past 


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 cause.

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 grows."

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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Matthew Breen