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Gov. Cuomo stands up for LGBT rights

Gov. Cuomo stands up for LGBT rights

Cuomo's protest of North Carolina law reminiscent of gay marriage fight

Remember all the hullabaloo over gay marriage when New York first allowed same-sex couples to get married?

It was going to be anarchy, someone said. (Seriously, someone said that.) It would undermine freedom of religion. It would destroy the sanctity of marriage.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo and members of the state Legislature pushed ahead, risking their political futures for it. Some lawmakers, including Assemblyman Roy McDonald, the former Wilton town supervisor, actually got booted out of office in the wave of anti-gay sentiment. They all took a chance to make life better for others.

And what became of all those predictions after New York and a handful of other states took that first bold step only a few years ago? None of it.

Marriage is still as intact as it was before. No one's religious freedom has been touched one iota. There was no anarchy. Once most people got used to the idea, they went back to minding their own business, just as they should have done when the issue was first raised.

But it took courage and initiative, both from the individuals fighting to be married and from the government officials willing to risk offending some of their constituents to extend this right to everyone who wanted it.

The same thing is eventually going to happen with transgender rights. And, as it happens, Gov. Cuomo is once again taking a lead role.

We know the governor's got his flaws. But as he was on same-sex marriage, he is out front and on the right side of transgender rights.

The governor took some heat earlier this week when he signed an executive order banning all non-essential state employee travel to North Carolina. The governor there had signed a law preventing local governments from protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public places. The law also stated that transgender people would have to use multi-stall bathrooms that match their birth certificates in state buildings and universities.

So Cuomo, in a gesture of protest, put on the travel ban for state employees.

He was immediately labeled as a hypocrite. The North Carolina governor's office noted, as one example, that Cuomo had visited Cuba last year, despite the country's "deplorable" human rights record.

All this fear over transgender individuals using the "wrong" bathroom is very reflective of the fears expressed when homosexual couples were given the right to marry.

The transgender issue will turn out to be much ado about nothing. Once the transgender rights are in place, most people will accept them just as they did gay marriage.

But it takes an effort on behalf of government leaders and other individuals willing to take a stand against discrimination before we as a society can reach that point.

In time, we'll move beyond our irrational fears, and the rights awarded by the Constitution will apply equally to everyone, regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation.

The governor's gesture, while relatively innocuous from a practical standpoint, nonetheless sends a strong message to the LGBT community and to the public at large that discrimination will not be accepted without protest.

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