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Andrew M. Cuomo - Governor

Governor Cuomo on Women's Equality Act: "When You Pass a Law in New York, People Notice. That Is the Legacy of New York"

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Albany, NY (June 6, 2013)

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday traveled to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie to deliver a speech about restoring New York as a leader in women's rights. The Governor urged New Yorkers to tell their legislators to pass the Women's Equality Act now.


A video of the full speech is available here. Full transcript below.


ATTN TV Stations: Below is high resolution (h264, mp4) TV-quality video of a portion of Governor Cuomo's speech on the Women's Equality Act at Vassar College:


Full transcript:

Governor Cuomo: "Thank you! Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Good afternoon Vassar, it’s a pleasure to be here, and what a, what a really fitting setting for today, and a fitting institution. As you heard from Mylan, we were at Seneca Falls earlier this morning. Seneca Falls and the theory and the practice of Vassar couldn’t be better settings for what we’re talking about today, women’s equality. First to Mylan Denerstein. Mylan, I’m so proud of her. She’s counsel to the Governor. You see how she said good afternoon and she told you to say good afternoon back? She does that to me all day long, you know. She’s a very directed counsel. She’s done a fantastic job as my counsel. We were together in the Attorney General’s office before that, but she’s a great lawyer, she’s a great mother, she’s a great wife, she’s a great friend, she’s a great colleague, and this has been an extraordinary piece of work that, I saw Violet, I was with Violet, Mylan’s daughter, yesterday, and I said to her ‘You won’t understand this now, but in ten, fifteen years you’ll be very proud of your mom, because she made history.’ Mylan Denerstein.


Dr. Gray, thank you for the hospitality, and please thank everyone at Vassar for us for letting us be here. Christine Sadowski, thank you for your work.


There is a very powerful coalition of women, 850 organizations all across the state, that has been working on this. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve been in and around politics for a little bit, and they, this is really something. It is grass roots. It is people who are not necessarily associated with politics, but just women who, who get it and who want to make a difference. And it’s really been fantastic. I’m just sort of an ancillary to this juggernaut of the coalition. Which, by the way, was made clear to me at Seneca Falls. We’re walking into Seneca Falls, I don’t know how many of you know it, and we’re with one of Christine’s colleagues, Barbara Bartoletti from the League of Women Voters, and we’re walking into Seneca Falls, and you walk past the wall that has the declaration, and there’s a little plaque with like, three men on the little side plaque that’s off the main plaque, it’s a small plaque like this. It’s very hard to see, but if you look very closely you see three men’s faces. And Barbara Bartoletti turns to me, and she says, ‘See, men could even be helpful back then, just like you are now,’ she said. So I’m assisting the coalition of women on this very important mission. And it is, some issues that we deal with on the state are technical, and they’re complicated, and they have to be explained, and it’s about facts, and it’s about information. That’s not what today is about. Today is about values, and principles, and stating the obvious, and having the courage to stand up and tell the truth about the obvious. That’s what today is about. It started in January when we did what’s called the State of the State address, and stood up and said to the people of the state of New York, ‘Here is the truth. The truth is we discriminate against women in society in this state and in this country, and it is pervasive, and we haven’t admitted it, and it goes on every day, and it’s a shame, and it’s wrong, and it’s immoral, and it’s unethical, and it has to stop, and it’s going to stop in the state of New York, and then it’s going to stop everywhere.’ That is the truth.


And it’s the old king’s clothes story right? It is something that everyone has seen just no one wanted to say it. I remember when we were getting ready for the state of the state and we were talking about it as a group with the senior staff and I said “well this is what I want to say” and I said what I just said to you, and they said well that’s true but I don’t think you can say that, I said “why not”, they said “well, it’s so blunt and it is so damning of a statement of society”, but it’s true. You will never solve a problem you are unwilling to admit. It is true in life personally, its true about relationships, it is true institutionally, it is true societally. Denial is not a life strategy, you have an issue, you have a problem, confront it or you’ll deal with it forever. We have a problem, we discriminate against women, the admission of it is the first step towards solving it and admitting it was the powerful step. Why do something about it, what’s the technical explanation? Here is the technical explanation, it is not right, it is not fair, it is not just, it not what we are about as a country, it’s not what were about as a state, it is not what we are about as a people or as a community. Pay equity. You still don’t pay women, what you pay a man for the same job. 84 cents on the dollar. A woman makes 84 cents to a man’s dollar. I have three daughters, Cara, Mariah, and Michaela. You’re going to tell me that my daughters are 84% as valuable as a man, it that what society is saying to me? That by birth, that by some genetic configuration, my daughter is not equal to a born man? No. You’re not going to say that to me, not in this state not in 2013, it is insulting, it is wrong, it is repugnant to everything we believe in. Domestic violence we still don’t have the courage as a society to admit the scourge of domestic violence. It is much more common than we would like to admit, it is all throughout society, it is not them over there, it’s us over here, it’s not in the other neighborhood, it’s in this neighborhood, it’s in your neighbor’s house. We haven’t admitted it as a society. We have more animal shelters in society than we have domestic violence shelters.


We still don’t give the victims, the care and compassion and protection that they deserve. This Act does that. Human trafficking something it sounds like that we would be talking about in some other country somewhere else, an issue for the United Nations and it exists right here in this state. Young women, girls who are in a vulnerable situation who are exploited over, and over, and over again. We had a young lady with us in Albany yesterday started to be exploited. The exploitation started when she was nine years old. Forced prostitution at thirteen years old in this state. Miles from here year after year after year these situations exist and it’s not right and it’s not fair and it’s not just and it’s not who we are as a society. It’s also smart for society to give full equality to women.


Vassar Institution. Why? Because it was ethically right to give women the same education as men. Also Vassar Institution because it was smart. Why? Because if you want society to be the best it can be then educate everyone. Not just half the population don’t just educate the men. Educate everyone. Women’s equality why? Because if you want this country to be the strongest it can be. You want this state to be the strongest it can be then invest in everyone and treat everyone equally. You think we are strong now. Imagine when we invest in every woman and we let every woman develop her God given potential and take her as far as her talents will take her and pay her one hundred percent on a man’s dollar and promote her the way you promote a man and believe in her the way you believe a man. Imagine how strong we’ll be. You want to be the strongest country in the globe. Become the strongest country in the globe by saying “I’ve invested in all my people. And we are one and we are lifted on the shoulders of us all. Because we believe in the concept of community, interconnection, and interrelation. And we believe that when we invest in each other we are all lifted.” Because we are a fabric, we are a society and when one is raised we are all raised. And when there is fifty percent of the population who we are not treating equally it degrades us all. It’s smart that’s Vassar Institution.


What do we need you to do? One little thing and we’re all set. You have to help get it passed. You have to help get it passed. Now you can look at this and say well it’s a no brainer. This one should pass. Senator Terry Gipson is here. He can tell you how sometimes no brainer things go to Albany to die. It is apparently a no brainer. But not so much. Pay equity who can argue? Members of the Business Community can argue. Why? Because they don’t want to pay more money for a person who is in that position.”


So members of the business community can argue. The protecting a woman’s right to choose is a very controversial issue. Now, it was established in this nation, 1973, Roe v. Wade, right. It is well settled, case after case after case has affirmed it, but there are people who still disagree with the finding in 1973 and would like to roll back the protection to make abortion illegal. I respect their belief, I disagree, but I respect their belief. They believe right to life, that abortion is murder, it should be stopped. They are very strong politically, and they are very good at making their voice heard, trust me. I hear it all the time and they are very passionate and this is still a system where the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and their voice is loud and their opinion matters and they are affecting the political system.


You have to make your voice heard, and I know it sounds like a high school civics course. We’ve had a good two years in Albany. We passed more legislation than has been passed in a long, long time. And people come to me and say: “Well Governor Cuomo, how did you do it differently than everybody else?” because we’ve gotten many more bills passed than we have in the past twenty years. They say: “Well, how do you do it?” I say: “Well I don’t do anything.” I go to the people of this state and I say: “You have to engage now.” And when the people engage, the politicians follow, sort of the exact opposite thing they taught you in high school. In high school they say the politicians lead, and the people follow. I think it’s actually the reverse. People lead and the politicians follow. You need to lead, you need to lead, you need to say: “I heard the women’s equality agenda and I want it passed and I want it passed now, and my voice counts too and I will remember and I participate,” because the democratic system really does work when you participate.


We have two weeks. I’m not asking you to engage for multiple years. We have two weeks, just a short intense effort to get this passed, and get it passed for the State of New York and make a difference for the State of New York. And when you make a difference for the State of New York it has an effect beyond the State of New York. Why? Because New York, I can say as an arrogant New Yorker, is a little bit more special. You pass a law in New York, people notice and that is actually the legacy of New York. We have led on progressive issues almost from day one, almost from day one. And when you think about it, it makes sense.


New York was a little more complicated, a little more diverse; we had more concentration of people from different places, we dealt with problems that developed here before other places even thought of the problem. Because it was happening here. In a very intense, complicated environment. So it happened here first, we learned from it, we solved it, and then they watched us. And being that we were diverse, and being that we had to figure out how to get people from all over the globe to co-exist, we tended to develop a progressive philosophy first. So you look at a lot of progressive movements, they started here. The workers' rights movement. The worker's safety movement. That started here. Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. That started here, we learned that lesson. Environmental protection. It happened here. Right here. Storm King Mountain, right here on the Hudson. We birthed the environmental movement.


Gay rights movement, Stonewall in Manhattan in the sixties, Women's Rights Movement, Seneca Falls. They all started here. We passed marriage equality in this state two years ago, all the other states noticed. And when New York did it, it became accepted, it became real, it became a topic of discussion and it accelerated an entire movement. We pass women's equality in this state, it will take first the most powerful point which is the admission and the recognition of the problem. And it will lift it up high. And that is the statement that needs to be made nationwide. That we do discriminate against women. And we do exploit women in this society. And maybe it's painful to say, but it's also the first step toward resolution. With your help, we will change these laws. We will change this culture. We'll change the behavior, we'll change the dynamic and we will leave this place a better place for the next generation. Because at the end of the day it's very simple. Forget the politics, forget all of it. We're parents, we're neighbors, we're citizens. And the fundamental responsibility is to leave this place a little better than we found it. A little bit safer, a little bit cleaner, a little bit sweeter. To leave our children's home just a little bit better. And I want to leave this state a little bit better for my daughters, for yours, for your sisters, and for everyone who comes thereafter. Two weeks we can make it a reality. Thank you and God bless you."