Marriage Equality Press Conference
Andrew Cuomo, New York State Governor
Transcribed except from the June 24, 2011 news conference video
© July 12, 2011, Demian
The following is an extended excerpt from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press conference shortly before signing the historic law allowing legal civil marriage in New York State.
Please see New York Offers Legal Marriage for details on the law’s history and marriage license procedure.
What we accomplished this evening, with marriage equality, really, in some ways, brings it all home. Because this state, when it is at its finest, is a beacon for social justice. The legacy of this state is that we have been the progressive capitol of the nation.
And when you look back at so many of the great progressive movements that were birthed here in New York — the women’s rights movement was birthed here. The environmental rights movement was birthed here — Storm King on the Hudson. The workers’ rights movement was birthed here, after the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire.
All these great progressive movements. The gay rights movement was birthed at Stonewall.
What this state said today brings this discussion of marriage equality to a new plane. That’s the power and the beauty of New York. The other states look to New York for the progressive direction.
What we said today again makes the world look to New York, because New York made a powerful statement. Not just for the people of New York, but the people all across this nation.
We reached a new level of social justice this evening — marriage equality.
I said to the legislators, you look at the first word, marriage, it’s really about the second word, equality. It’s really about New Yorkers, our brothers and sisters, looking at us and saying, we want equality. We want equality in society, equality in our relationships, equality in our love, equality in our families. We want full recognition — marriage equality — and we did it today.
That legislature worked together and they responded to their better angels. They responded to their hopes, not their fears. Twenty-nine out of 30 Democrats. Four Republicans who showed real courage.
Even the way we worked together to make it happen; senator Tom Dwayne and assemblyman Dan O’donald who have been fighting for this for years. I applaud Mayer Mike Bloomberg who stepped up to the plate and really, really worked. I applaud governor David Patterson, who put this on the radar screen and on the agenda years ago, and tried to pass it.
Sometimes justice is an evolutionary process, and governor Patterson and that first vote is and evolutionary process to where we are today.
And I thank the advocacy community, that came together from all across the nation, and worked as one. They were sophisticated, smart and constructive in their effort. It was my pleasure to work with them.
I am always proud to be a New Yorker, but tonight I am especially proud to be a New Yorker.
Last, but not least, I want to thank the greatest team of government professionals ever assembled. All these things that we did — its a pleasure.
You’d be hard pressed to find an elected official who wasn’t originally opposed to same-sex marriage. This is a relatively recent explosion in the march to justice.
A few years ago, we were fighting for Civil Unions. That was the threshold. Now, it is, literally, full equality, and that’s what marriage is all about.
I spoke about it with many legislators, and I’m proud that I realized that not only was it right, but it was obtainable.
I remember a conversation a few years ago where I said while I understand, in concept, this is where you want to get, but it seemed almost unobtainable, just a few years ago.
Public opinion has changed dramatically on this issue very, very quickly. I think that is kudos to the people of this state. Roughly 60 percent of the people of this state support marriage equality. God bless.
I think this vote today will send a powerful message across the country. Not only does it impact New Yorkers, the message that this is the direction to go, the time to do it is now, and it is achievable. It is no longer a dream or aspiration. It is achievable.
I don’t want to speak for anyone one person (such as president Obama), but I think it needed to be demonstrated that it was possible, that you could have a major populace state, that’s a sophisticated, complex state – and we have complex politics in this state - but it is possible and I think we are going to see a rapid evolution.
A lot of people worked on this for a very long time. The advocacy groups did a phenomenal job, and were very powerful in persuading people. However, this was really about legislators, quality individuals, who struggled with this issue, and, at the end of the day, did the right thing.
These are people of courage and principal, they understood the facts and they stood tall. Thats who gets the credit here. The groups were great, but if the legislators didn’t have courage and principle, it wouldn’t have happened.
What many of us were struggling with was the balance of marriage equality and religious protection. We did that as a collaborative process. We spent hours and hours working on that law. I think we came up with a chapter amendment that was balanced and I think that’s what gave the conference the courage to bring it to the floor, even if they disagreed with it.
In some ways, this was a more difficult vote for the four Republicans than the 29 Democrats, depending on the Democrat’s district. But I think it was politically more dangerous for a Republican. The Conservative Party was actually threatening them with consequences and primaries, and they did it anyway. I think they showed themselves to be people of courage.
June 24, 2011 - Press Conference from the governor’s office, Albany