Cuomo says ‘we still discriminate against women,’ and proposes a remedy

cuomo-says-we-still-discriminate-against-women-and-proposes-remedy
Cuomo at the Yale Club. (Dana Rubinstein)
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“With all our sophistication and all our education and all our wealth, in the greatest city in the greatest state on the planet, we still discriminate against women,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo today during a speech at the Yale Club. “There is a subtle bias, but it is there.”

Cuomo, whose inner circle is heavily male, has a plan to address that bias.

“You’d be hard pressed to go back and find any great social, progressive movement in this country that wasn’t birthed in this state,” said Cuomo this morning. “The environmental movement started right here at Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River. Workers’ rights came out of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire ... NAACP birthed here. Gay-rights movement started at the Stonewall. Women’s rights, Seneca Falls, obviously. We started it here.”

But, Cuomo said, “We lost our way somewhat over the past few decades.”

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Suzy Ballantyne, a boardmember of Eleanor’s Legacy, the group that seeks to elect Democratic women to office and which hosted today’s event, agrees.

“We always like to say in New York ‘We’re the best,’ right?” she said today. “We rank 32nd in women in the state legislature. That’s not good. We have a long way to go.”

Cuomo’s agenda, which is also that of Eleanor's Legacy, would enshrine Roe v. Wade in state law, expand sexual harassment protections, protect against pregnancy discrimination and stiffen human trafficking penalties, among other things.

Cuomo described it as “the most comprehensive women’s equality agenda that’s ever been done.”

Cuomo's agenda faces resistance from the coalition that runs the Senate, via his Republican ally Dean Skelos, whose hold on power the governor preserved

“We maintain that the votes exist to pass the full women’s equality agenda, including protections for reproductive rights,” State Senator Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, told me in a brief interview. “The fact that [Senate Republican leader] Dean Skelos has been empowered to prevent the vote is what’s been keeping this from happening.”

It will presumably be within Cuomo's power to compel cooperation in this case.

After his speech, Cuomo got a standing ovation from an audience that included his mom, Matilda Cuomo, Rep. Nita Lowey, former congresswoman Kathy Hochul, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Comptroller John Liu, Councilwoman Letitia James, State Senate Democratic conference leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

“The majority of people who vote are women,” said Stabenow. “We can elect whoever we want. And I kinda like electing a president in 2016, what do you think?”

She was referring to Hillary Clinton.

Update: Here's a comment from Kelly Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans: "As Senator Skelos has said, there are a number of components of the Governor's Women's Agenda that Senate Republicans could support, including measures to end human trafficking and protect the victims of domestic violence. In fact, Senate Republicans have already supported similar bills addressing these issues and we're ready to work with the Governor on them. What we aren't going to do is approve extreme legislation that expands late term abortion, opens the door to the Dr. Gosnell-type horrors that occurred in Pennsylvania and puts the health and well-being of thousands of women in New York at risk."