Gov. Andrew Cuomo is moving to remove the last vestiges of legal discrimination against LGBTQ people in New York, and it’s about time.
Cuomo, at a rally on Tuesday, called for an end to the so-called “gay panic defense” and to the state’s prohibition against surrogate mothers.
Cuomo appeared at the rally with Bravo television host Andy Cohen, among others, and co-authored an op-ed with Cohen for the website Buzzfeed.
We wonder how the gay panic defense — where those accused of assault or murder claim justification because they feared unwanted sexual advances from a person of the same gender — ever became acceptable under law.
Cuomo said at the rally: “...the gay panic defense is a law in the state of New York that says as a defense in a criminal action, assault, murder, a defense is ‘I just found out that the person was gay. And I was so emotionally disturbed when I found out the person was gay, I was not fully responsible for my actions.’ And that is a legal defense in this state. Think about this in any other context. I found out that he was of Italian-American descent and I was so out of my mind, disturbed, that I killed him. I found out that she was Jewish, and I found out that she was from Haiti. I mean it’s so disgusting, is the only word.”
That’s a pretty good summary. The law allows hate of a group of people to be used as a defense for crimes against them. It’s not tolerated for any group and should not be tolerated here.
Brevity is not the governor’s strong suit, but he distilled the issue very well in this statement: “We don’t allow the codification of homophobia, which is what the gay panic defense is. It is the codification of homophobia, and not in New York.”
Cuomo called on the Legislature to change the law. Bills to do that are before both houses.
It’s surprising to learn that New York — hailed as progressive by progressives and derided as liberal by conservatives — is one of only three states in the nation that does not allow gestational surrogacy.
The process involves implanting an embryo into a woman who is willing to carry a child and deliver it on behalf of those who can’t. It’s a process that benefits traditional families that battle infertility as much as it benefits gay or lesbian couples who, obviously, need help to become parents.
“How can New York state be one of the three that doesn’t allow surrogacy?” Cuomo asked, rhetorically, at the rally. “It is repugnant to everything we believe and everything we are.”
Forty-seven other states, including many to the political right of New York, seem to agree.
“Why wouldn’t you let them do it? Why wouldn’t you help them do it? What possible rationale would say no?” Cuomo asked, in his usual rapid-fire style. “We have the technology. We have people who want to help. I’ve met women who say, ‘You know what, I would love to bring a child into this world for a loving couple.’ Why wouldn’t you allow it?”
Even with Democrats in control of both houses of the Legislature, though, passage of bills to fix these problems is not a sure thing. Particularly in the Assembly, opponents seem not to understand the idea that a woman would choose to be a surrogate.
It seems the state Senate is prepared to vote to right these wrongs. The Assembly needs to follow suit.
Hence the rally and op-ed, with Cuomo using a gay TV star as a prop.
Tactics and rhetoric aside, Cuomo is right on this one, and we call on the Legislature to follow his lead.