The Women’s Equality Act, created by Governor Andrew Cuomo, is a ten-point piece of legislation that would strengthen bans on gender discrimination and human trafficking, ease the process for discriminated and abused women to pursue legal recourse, and codify the Roe v. Wade decision in New York State law.
The piece of legislation has stirred partisan conflict as it struggled through the state legislature.
The Democrat-controlled Assembly voted the omnibus bill through in January, but the Senate, controlled by a coalition of Republicans and independent Democrats—which at the time included Liu opponent State Senator Tony Avella—passed all the points except for the tenth point, which intended to codify the Roe v. Wade decision into state law.
Senate Republicans refused to strengthen the state’s pro-choice stance, while Assembly Democrats refused to pass the legislation without the tenth point, stalling the passage of the whole act. The 2014 legislation session ended in a stalemate without it becoming law.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz spoke in support of Liu, claiming that her time working in Albany helped her realize, “that when you have an elected official like the former comptroller of the City of New York, who knows how to make coalitions, who knows to how to talk on both sides of an issue, who knows how to make negotiations work in a place like Albany, that’s how you move an agenda forward like the women’s agenda.”
Lt. Governor Kathy Holchul, while coming to the rally in support of Liu, focused more of her speech on passing the Women’s Equality Act after a failed attempt.
“He [Governor Cuomo] asked me to get the women’s equality agenda over the finish line,” she said. “We came close. We didn’t get there last year, and I‘m staking my reputation on getting it done.
“So we’ve just begun, but it’s worth the fight that we’re going to undertake,” she added. “I need my partners in government—everyone who is standing here today—to make sure that we don’t come up short. When New York steps us, the rest of the nation follows.”
Liu professed his staunch Democratic values and desire to pass the “full women’s equality agenda,” but heavily focused on disparaging the political record of Avella.
He blamed the failure of passing the Women’s Equality Agenda on Senate Republicans and “the so-called few independent Democrats who empowered them,” a pointed reference to Avella.
While never calling out Avella by name, Liu characterized Avella as a traitor of the Democratic Party who was “more concerned to do the bidding of the conservative party than stay true to the Democratic values and protect women’s freedom of choice.”
Liu supported his characterization of Avella by claiming that he voted for a budget that stripped funding from the Affordable Healthcare Act.
“It doesn’t take much to erode the freedoms we sometimes take for granted, as it did when my opponent joined with the Republicans to vote against access for affordable healthcare for women,” he said. “Voting for a Senate budget that stripped funding for Obamacare may have been part of his backroom deal to empower Republicans, but it is not what Democrats expected when they elected him to State Senate.”
Congressman Joe Crowley supported Liu by contrasting him with his Democratic opponent.
“Aside from the fact that he [Avella] betrayed Democrats, he has betrayed women in his district,” Crowley said. “That needs to be answered. John Liu will not betray his constituency.”
Avella’s campaign spokesman released a press statement in response, stating: “It’s unfortunate that the Queens Democratic Party bosses, who supported corrupt ex-Senator Hiram Monserrate for years, once again are shamefully distorting Senator Avella’s 100 percent pro-choice and pro-Women’s Equality agenda voting record.”
From a New York State Senate press release from June 18, Avella did in fact vote to pass all nine measures of the Women’s Equality Agenda that reached the Senate and co-sponsored many of the measures, such as the bills to prohibit sexual harassment and allow victims of domestic violence to electronically file for protection.