Times Examines Cuomo’s Record on Gay Rights

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Photo: wsj.com

In a lengthy analysis, Times reporter Michael Barbaro today runs through leading gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo's track record on gay rights, and finds some places where his fervor on the issue wasn't as, well, consistent as he says it is now. This has some advocates worried about whether he'll come through on promises he's made to gay leaders, like prioritizing the passage of a same-sex-marriage bill. Here are some of the instances Barbaro dredges up where Cuomo appeared favorable toward gays and gay issues:

• He seeks out gay leaders for counsel, like City Council speaker Christine Quinn.
• He has gay friends.
• While he worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it doubled the amount of money it devoted to housing for those with HIV/AIDS and his staff urged gay organizations to apply for grants to open community centers.
• He is dating drag icon Sandra Lee. (Okay, we just stuck that one in there on our own.)

On the other hand, Barbaro lines up several instances where Cuomo's devotion to gay issues seems to have flagged, or at least taken the back burner:

• During last year's contentious battle in the State Senate over the failed gay-marriage bill, while Governor Paterson, Kirsten Gillibrand, Christine Quinn, and even Chuck Schumer lobbied on behalf of the bill, Cuomo was virtually silent, not even bothering to get three wavering state senators on the phone when asked to do so by gay groups. The future governor's push on the issue could have been a critical factor: None of the three voted for the bill.
• His first political campaign was his father's primary race against Ed Koch, during which Mario Cuomo's supporters put up signs in Brooklyn and Queens that said, "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo." (The younger Cuomo has said he had nothing to do with the signs. Koch says he's not so sure.)
• During his father's gubernatorial election, he liaised with gay groups privately but publicly worked to downplay their connection to the campaign.
• When his father signed an executive order barring discrimination against state workers on grounds of sexual orientation, he also worked to publicly downplay that.
• When he ran Walter Mondale's New York operation during his failed presidential bid, Cuomo viewed local dismay over Mondale's shifting position on gays in the military as a "nuisance."
• And anyway, he "did not publicly support [gay marriage] until he ran for attorney general in 2006 — eight years after Eliot Spitzer said he favored it and 12 years after Mr. Paterson did so."

Of course, many of those instances are from years, and even decades, ago. Say what you will about Cuomo: He's highly attuned and responsive to political tides and influences. Since his first campaign experience with his dad, gay groups have become far more politically (and financially) powerful in the state. That, more than anything, should inform anyone's guess about Cuomo's gay agenda after the election.

Doubts About Cuomo’s Support of Gay Rights [NYT]