Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s speech to the Empire State Pride Agenda dinner last night brought chatter about his national aspirations, brought raised eyebrows about a possible presidential snub, brought hints of an endorsement and brought down the house. We’ve transcribed his speech here so you can judge for yourself. Below that, also check out City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s earlier remarks. We doubt this will be the last you’ll heard of both of these speeches …
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Empire State Pride Agenda dinner, Oct. 27, 2011:
Please sit down, or the cubes are going to melt.
First, to Speaker Quinn, I figured out right away the strategy for success was just do whatever Christine told me to do. Chris is really extraordinary. I’ve worked with a lot of elected officials across the state and across the country. She’s not just a great person, she’s a great leader, and the best is yet to be for Christine Quinn.
To Laura Linney and Alan Cumming, what a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.
On the topic of marriage I just want you to remember there is good news and there is bad news. The good news is marriage. The bad news is the questions. You will now feel the pressure and you will get the questions and the looks. And in one word they can do it: “Sooooo? So?”
It’s worth it in the long run. Congratulations to ESPA. This is such a phenomenal victory on so many levels and you should thank ESPA for making this happen. Because you did it. You truly did it.
They give great speeches about, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Baloney. It is bent towards justice. Change comes when people demand change. Change comes when people organize. And work. And they put resources on the table, that’s when change comes.
You look at all the great progressive movements and you look at all the instances of real progressive change. Women’s right movement — Seneca Falls. It didn’t just happen. It wouldn’t have happened by mere evolution. People made it happen. And it took courage and it took guts and it took work and it took sweat and people made it happen.
The workers’ rights movement, Triangle Factory fire. People made it happen. The racial justice movement. People gave their lives to make it happen. You’ve achieved historic social progress and you did it the old-fashioned way. You did it with hard work, you did it with discipline and you did it with selflessness. Give ESPA a round of applause.
You did a beautiful thing. And Christine is right. This is now resonating on so many levels. And yes, it’s great for the LGBT community but frankly it’s beyond that. It’s everyone. It’s everywhere.
You affirmed people’s sense of government and capacity of government. You affirmed people’s belief in humanity — that people will do the right thing under the right circumstances. That people are accepting and people are nonjudgmental. And if you appeal to people with facts they will actually rise to their better selves. You did that. And you did it at a time when people desperately needed affirmation.
And they inhaled it and they absorbed it because they needed it because there’s negative everywhere. There’s anxiety, there’s fear, there’s frustration that nothing is working and trust is lost, and people are unhappy. And here was a beautiful moment, where that was all gone, and people did the right thing — of different parties and different races and for different reasons, but people did the right thing, and that’s beyond your community.
I was walking down the street one day and a young fellow ran up to me and said, ‘Congratulations on passing marriage,’ and his face was just illuminated. I said, “Oh, you’re gay?” He said, “No,” and he was surprised that I would ask the question. Why? Because this is a universal victory.
This wasn’t a victory for the gay community. It was a victory for society. And this message is going to resonate all across this nation. Now part of it is the power of New York, because this is New York. And when New York does something everyone else notices it. And by the way, for many years that was the role of New York. We were the progressive capital. And when the other states, people needed to figure out what to do about a pressing issue they looked to New York.
So they’re looking to New York once again. And that is putting the empire back in the Empire State. But it’s also resonating, because we showed it could be done and we crystallized the issue. And the question is the answer. And the question that we posed to the people of the state is, do you support equality, period. That’s the whole question, and there’s only one answer to that question which is yes, I support equality.
And the answers just didn’t work: “Well, we’ll do civil unions. It’s almost marriage. It’s like marriage. It’s very close to what I have.” I want equality. I want the same thing. I don’t want almost. I don’t want like. I don’t want runner-up. I don’t want comparable. I want the same thing because I’m an equal person with equal love and with equal partnership and equal rights and equal humanity. And I want equality and I demand equality.
Now, we are going to try with the rest of the equality agenda. Nationwide, there are no federal anti-discrimination laws for LGBT and there need to be. There are no federal anti-discrimination laws for housing or for employment. DOMA has to go away once and for all.
We need marriage equality in every state in this nation. Otherwise no state really has marriage equality. And we will not rest until it is a reality. This was a magnificent effort. And what was special about the effort is how people came together and groups came together and really put their ego and their self aside. And ESPA did that magnificently.
Let’s be honest. It’s not easy to get people to come together and put aside their own ego and their own name with their own letterhead and really work as a collective. It happened here. And, there is no one person, truly, that made this work. Otherwise it wouldn’t have worked. This really was a collective and a group of people who focused on the goal. And when you do that you can do anything.
So this award that I’m honored with tonight I will accept on behalf of the people of the state of New York and on behalf of the government of the state of New York. And you had a government that really did rise to the best of occasions. You have Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell who led 80 Democrats to vote yes. You have Sen. Tom Duane, who brought the Democrats in the senate. You got four Republicans who showed courage, Marc Grisanti, Jim Alesi, Roy McDonald and Steve Saland. You have Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, who fought all across the state; my former chief of staff Steve Cohen; Gov. David Paterson who started this fight and brought this fight to Albany in the first place.
My last point is this on a personal note. Many of you have had the pleasure of meeting my youngest daughter Michaela, who is the baby. She’s 14 and she is special. I have three daughters, they’re all special, but she’s the baby. She marched with me in the gay pride parade last year, two years ago now.
And I was in the middle of a campaign for governor and I was ridiculed by my gubernatorial opponent for having my daughter at the gay pride parade, that I was a bad parent to have her with me in the parade. Um, and we discussed that at the time with our opponent, but she really is special and she really has a sense of life.
And she said to me a few weeks ago, “You know, you’re the son of Mario Cuomo, and your father, gave you a legacy and gave you a tradition and gave you a reputation because he was the voice of social justice. He fought for the death penalty and he fought for a woman’s right to choose, and that is a gift that your father gave you, that you will always have.”
She said, “I am the daughter of Andrew Cuomo, the man who signed marriage equality into law, and that is a gift you gave me.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at Empire State Pride Agenda dinner, Oct. 27, 2011:
Thank you. And I may have the best job of anybody tonight, ’cause I get to introduce our great governor who is the recipient of the Douglas W. Jones leadership award.
You know, there aren’t a lot of things in life that you can actually say, if it wasn’t for one particular person, it wouldn’t have happened. Very few things are kind of that black and white. And look, a lot went into marriage, everyone in this room deserves a huge amount of credit, ’cause the truth is, after we lost the first time, we could have become bitter and angry and walked away, and we didn’t. We dug in, we raised money, we kicked people out of office, we got people into office, we organized, we did our jobs.
But then one particular person elected made all the difference in the world. And you know, often we have all heard it as activists in the LGBT community: big elected officials — governors, mayors, presidents, senators — say, “Just wait a little while, can’t do that in my first year, I’ll get to it, don’t worry.”
Rarely do you see somebody like Governor Cuomo who comes into office and says, “Don’t wait, we’re going to do it in the first year. Come to my office. This is how we are going to do it.”
I don’t know if we have ever, in the history of our movement, seen an elected official, an ally of our community, put their first year in office on the line for our community the way Governor Cuomo did. He defined victory for his first year as bringing ethics reform, passing an on-time, balanced budget and passing marriage equality.
That’s how he saw victory. Think about that: the governor of the great state of New York saw three things as the most important thing he could do in his first year. And marriage equality was one of them.
And that isn’t just a game-changer in what it brought all of us. I believe its a game-changer for how every elected official has to view the issues of our community. They’re no longer back burner, they’re no longer to be done in the final year in the last term you’re in office. They are to be done immediately, to define whether or not you are really committed to all Americans being equal in this entire country.
And Governor Cuomo did all of this with clarity, with force, with hard work and with great grace and dignity. He listened. He invited opponents into his office. He heard where they were coming from. He kept all of us who were the proponents working together, moving forward. He found ways to get all of us to put our big egos aside and keep our eyes on the prize. He was the person who really managed this effort and got us to victory.
And I have never in my life had an experience like marching down Fifth Avenue with Governor Cuomo on pride Sunday this year. There were people with literally tears streaming down their face thanking Governor Cuomo. Think about the cynicism that is out there towards government now in our country, and think about what he has done beyond just marriage equality — restoring people’s faith that government can be about and for them.
Governor Cuomo, you have forever changed the lives of people you will never meet. You have sent a message to children who are struggling with figuring out their sexual orientation. You have sent them a message that they matter, that they are important, that their lives are worth something. Children who are in homes that they dare not say to their parents that they think they might be gay, children who are being bullied in school — you have literally given them a life preserver.
And all of us in this room are indebted to you for doing that. It was an act of bravery and humanity and an act of ultimate unselfish love for the people of New York state and the children of this country, and we are all ever grateful.
You know, I told people throughout the whole process that I always thought we would get the bill passed, but I wasn’t really always sure. But every time I spoke to the governor, I was sure, because he was sure that he was going to make it happen and that’s what he did.
And in addition to being so honored to present this award and introduce the governor tonight, I am doubly glad that he is the first elected official to ever win the Doug Jones leadership award. I think that says a lot in who Doug Jones was in our movement and how instrumental he was in helping the pride agenda in so many LGBT groups who at the time no one else was or no one else would.
And just before we call our great governor who better get one hell of a standing ovation — you hear me people, don’t embarrass me — before the governor comes up to the stage, i want to ask Doug’s long-time partner and co-chair of the Pride Agenda’s board of directors Lewis Bradbury to come up on stage to present the award to the governor.
Let me now introduce someone who has put the empire back into the Empire State — put us back in a rightful place as a leader in civil rights — who has made it, I believe, a truth that someday very soon we will have marriage equality in every state in the union, our great Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Tags: Alan Cumming, Andrew Cuomo, baloney, Bob Duffy, change, Christine Quinn, Danny O'Donnell, David Paterson, Douglas Jones, Empire State, Empire State Pride Agenda, equality, ESPA, Fifth Avenue, gay, Gay Marriage, Gay pride, Jim Alesi, justice, Laura Linney, Marc Grisanti, Mario Cuomo, marriage, Michaela Cuomo, moral universe, pride parade, Roy McDonald, Same Sex Marriage, Seneca Falls, Steve Cohen, Steve Saland, Tom Duane
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