Cynthia Nixon is an out-and-proud woman hoping to make electoral history – so why is the LGBT lobby lined up against her?
Cynthia Nixon announced her run for office this week with an election ad featuring her wife and children… but the LGBT lobby is backing a straight man instead.
The Sex and the City star and long-time LGBT activist this week announced a bid to become Governor of New York, as a Democratic primary challenger to the incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
But while Nixon could make history as the first out Governor of New York, her candidacy has been met with a largely hostile reaction from the LGBT lobby.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT campaigning organisation in the United States, has resolutely stood by its endorsement of Gov. Cuomo, despite previously lavishing Nixon with praise.
The Victory Fund, which promotes LGBT candidates at all levels of politics, has remained silent on her candidacy.
And at the same time, many of the state’s prominent gay political figures have come out against Nixon’s campaign.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney – the first openly gay member of Congress from New York – laid into “holier-than-thou” Nixon for running against Cuomo, while Christine Quinn, who was the first out lesbian New York City Council Speaker, hit out at the actress as “unqualified”.
Even Sir Elton John made a left-field endorsement of Gov. Cuomo, in a public snub to Nixon days before her campaign launch.
So, why is a queer woman massively losing the LGBT vote to a straight man?
The Human Rights Campaign cited Gov. Cuomo’s long history as an ally on LGBT issues, having championed equal marriage rights, anti-discrimination protections and the battle against HIV/AIDS across his years in politics.
Asked why HRC had endorsed Gov. Cuomo over Nixon, HRC President Chad Griffin told PinkNews: “Governor Cuomo has been a national champion for the LGBTQ community, with a proven track record of increasing much-needed protections and advancing equality for all New Yorkers.
“He led the way on winning marriage equality in New York, ensured critical non-discrimination protections were extended to transgender New Yorkers, took bold executive action to stop the discredited and dangerous practice of ‘conversion therapy,’ and set a strong example with his successful efforts to significantly lower the incidence of HIV and AIDS in the Empire State.”
HRC did not elaborate when PinkNews enquired how it decided to endorse Cuomo over Nixon, who herself is a lifelong LGBT rights activist.
The group had nothing to say in its statement about Nixon – a marked shift from prior to her candidacy, when HRC lavished praise on the actress and gave her a Visibility Award.
On that occasion, Mr Griffin said: “Cynthia Nixon is a fearless and outspoken advocate for all LGBTQ people.
“Cynthia uses her talent and public platform to speak out for equality in this country and around the globe, and in the process, she is changing countless hearts and minds. We are proud to recognize her with the HRC Visibility Award.”
HRC’s profile of her adds: “From advocating for marriage equality to fighting stigma and prejudice, Cynthia Nixon has consistently spoken out for LGBTQ equality on a wide range of issues impacting the community for many years.”
But now she is running for office, HRC is silent.
The Victory Fund told PinkNews that it had not yet offered backing to Nixon, but clarified that that she is welcome to apply for support.
Elliot Imse, Director of Communications for LGBTQ Victory Fund, told PinkNews: “LGBTQ people – and especially LGBTQ women – are severely underrepresented at every level of government.
“This year we have an unprecedented number of LGBTQ people running for governor and other statewide positions – with the potential to dramatically increase the number of LGBTQ governors in the United States.
“Cynthia Nixon is an intelligent, capable woman and a committed voice for our community, but she has not yet applied for our endorsement. If she applies, we will analyze her viability, campaign plan and issue positions to make a decision on her endorsement.”
Nixon’s supporters have been shocked by some of the aggressive campaigning against her by established LGBT politicians in the state.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney laid into the candidate, saying: “I can’t think of a worse time to pick some holier-than-thou contest with a guy who has a great progressive record. It just makes no sense to me.”
He added: “For my part, I have worked on LGBT issues with Governor Cuomo for more than a decade, and he was instrumental in helping me become the first openly gay member of Congress from New York.
“I can say unequivocally that the LGBTQ community has not had a greater champion than Governor Cuomo. He has not only been on the right side of our issues, but has delivered results that have changed the trajectory of our nation’s progress toward LGBTQ equality. Simply put, I owe my marriage to leaders like Andrew Cuomo.
“We must remember that Governor Cuomo took on the marriage equality issue when few politicians dared broach the subject. He was full-throated in his support and unabashed in his efforts, often to his political detriment. That’s called leadership.
“We also must keep focused on the larger goal — electing strong, proven progressive Democrats – including a Democratic Congress — to stop President Trump. Governor Cuomo is a tremendous ally in that effort. We should not have intramural contests that only aid Republicans.
“We should all support Governor Cuomo.”
Christine Quinn, former Speaker of the New York City Council, was apparently still smarting from her defeat in the 2013 Democratic primary for NYC Mayor, in which Nixon supported a rival candidate.
She said: “It’s a flight of fancy on her part. Cynthia Nixon was opposed to having a qualified lesbian become mayor of New York City.
“Now she wants to be an unqualified lesbian to be the Governor of New York.
“You have to be qualified and have experience. She isn’t qualified to be the governor.”
She later apologised for these remarks, telling Time Magazine: “Cynthia Nixon’s identity has no bearing on her gubernatorial candidacy and it was not my intention to suggest it did.
“I want to be clear about that. I would never, ever, criticise someone because of their identity.
“I’ve experienced that kind of criticism time and time again and I would never support it or condone it,” added Quinn.
Of Cuomo’s record on LGBT issues, HRC recalls: “During his tenure, Governor Cuomo has made LGBTQ equality a core part of his agenda, from fighting for marriage equality to combating HIV and AIDS to removing obstacles and improving opportunities for transgender Americans.
“Governor Cuomo extended vitally important non-discrimination protections to transgender New Yorkers and visitors in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Building upon state and federal case law, Governor Cuomo’s administration issued regulations clarifying that gender identity is included in the definitions of sex and disability which are protected under current state non-discrimination law.
“Cuomo is also the first governor to use executive action authority to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’.
“Cuomo was also one of the first governors to protect state workers by banning taxpayer-funded travel to North Carolina in light of the state’s anti-LGBTQ laws, HB2 and HB142. In August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration told health insurers that they cannot deny coverage to, or otherwise discriminate against, people based on their gender identity.”
In her release, Nixon said: “I was born in New York City, and I grew up in a one-bedroom fifth floor walk-up with my mom. I’m a proud public school graduate, and these days, an even prouder public school parent. For the last 17 years, I’ve travelled across this state to fight for better schools, LGBTQ equality, and women’s health care, including the right to choose.
“This is the state where I started acting at age 12 to put myself through college when my mom told me she couldn’t afford to. This is the state where I made my career, raised my kids, and met and married the love of my life, my wife Christine.
“When I grew up here, we didn’t have much money, but I still felt like anything was possible. I had opportunities that I just don’t see for the vast majority of New York’s kids today.
“New York has become the single most unequal state in the country. The top 1 percent of New Yorkers earn 45 times more than the bottom 99 percent combined. Black and Latino families in New York still earn much less than white families. Women still earn much less than men.
“It was a choice to slash taxes for the super-rich and impose austerity on everybody else. It was a choice to allow the schools attended by children of color to be underfunded and over-policed. It was a choice to sell our government off to corporate interests and wealthy donors, while the rest of us suffer.
“These are choices usually made by Republicans. But for the past eight years, they’re all choices that have been made by our governor, Andrew Cuomo.”
She added: “Eight years ago, I voted for Andrew Cuomo because I believed he was a real Democrat. But since taking office, Governor Cuomo has shown us his true colours.
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“He let the Republicans gerrymander their own districts to suppress Democratic voters, especially voters of colour.
“Then, when Democrats still won a majority, he cut a backroom deal that allowed Republicans to take over the State Senate through the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) — a group of breakaway Democrats who voted with the Republicans to hand them control, and with it, the power to block almost all of our key Democratic legislative priorities.
“Andrew Cuomo has given massive tax breaks to corporations and the super rich while starving the state and its cities of the most basic services and decimating our infrastructure. His inhumane budgets have been passed on the backs of our children, our working and middle class, and our elderly.
“We hear all the time about how the big money interests control DC. But if Washington is a swamp, then Albany is a cesspool. Andrew Cuomo promised to clean up Albany, but instead, he and his cronies have cleaned up for themselves. There’s a reason why people close to Cuomo keep winding up under indictment for corruption.
“New York’s eight years under the Cuomo administration have been an exercise in living with disappointment, dysfunction, and dishonesty. Our state could be a place where every single New Yorker has what we need to thrive, if only we could stop our governor from selling New York off to the highest bidder.”