Cuomo's Women's Equality Act Brings The A-Word To New York State Politics
In the video below, Governor Cuomo lays out his intentions for the Women's Equality Act - a plan that would focus on erasing specific gender biases in New York State law. Akin to the gun control bill passed in December, it's a landmark piece of legislation for the Cuomo administration and, per usual, many speculators see its possible passage as a platform jump for the Governor's presidential aspirations.
And it's shaping into one of the more controversial pieces this side of Albany.
The legislative session upstate ends in late June and, before then, the Governor hopes to get this package passed in the Senate and Assembly. And, by "package," we mean the following ten points as lined out by Cuomo's office:
- 1. Protect a Woman's Freedom of Choice
- 2. Achieve Pay Equity
- 3. Stop Sexual Harassment in All Workplaces
- 4. Allow for the Recovery of Attorneys' Fees in Employment and Credit and Lending Cases
- 5. Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws
- 6. End Family Status Discrimination
- 7. Stop Source-of-Income Discrimination
- 8. Stop Housing Discrimination for Victims of Domestic Violence
- 9. Stop Pregnancy Discrimination Once and For All
- 10. Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Laws
Can you guess why the bill has already sparked drama in the State Senate?
The bill's first provision - "Protect a Woman's Freedom of Choice" - indirectly implies the a-word. And, since the rise of Tea Party politics in America, New York State has evaded the political vulgarity that has attached itself to the controversial issue. It's no frontpage story now that Republican-controlled statehouses across the country have revisited the constitutional foundations of Roe v. Wade, adding more limitations to what a woman can and cannot do to her unborn baby. Vaginal ultrasounds, trimesters, cuts to federal funding for clinics, etc., etc.
Hence the included provision. By codifying abortion rights into the state law, Cuomo would move beyond Roe v. Wade in an attempt to prevent any infringement on a women's right to choose. It's a reaction to reactionary politics sweeping through states. And, by doing so, New York State politics is buckling itself up for an abortion battle.
The opposition is being led by State Senate Republican chieftain Dean Skelos of Long Island. Yesterday, he made it perfectly clear that his party would not let the abortion provision come to a vote. The other parts of the bill? Totally fine. But that one provision is not cutting it for Skelos.
His argument lies in its text: "You don't need it because Roe v. Wade is never going to be changed." In this sense, he called the provision "unnecessary." It's like Alexander Hamilton's problems with the Bill of Rights: why do we need to spell these ideas out when they already exist in our system? Also, he stated that citizens want their elected representatives to care about jobs, not defend their right to abortion.
Without the Republican conference's support, the bill cannot come to the floor for a vote. So, if this provision is included, the Women's Equality Act will be D.O.A. and, naturally, this is the last thing the Governor wants to hear.
The Voice will keep you updated on this impending legislative drama.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.