Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Food Network star Sandra Lee march in a pride parade.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat thought to have national ambitions, has been bombarded in recent weeks by liberal activists who have accused him of aligning with Republicans and corporate special interests instead of his own party. The tension culminated last Saturday when Cuomo successfully fought to hold onto the support of the labor-backed Working Families Party. However, even his critics would be hard pressed to question Cuomo's liberal bona fides when it comes to LGBT issues.
Cuomo, who in 2011 made his state one of the largest in the nation to enact same-sex marriage legislation, rolled out another landmark policy change Thursday that builds on his progressive branding on LGBT issues. The policy change will eliminate the requirement for New Yorkers to prove they've had sex-reassignment surgery in order to formally change the sex on their birth certificates.
LGBT advocates describe the sex-reassignment surgery requirement as an unnecessary burden on transgender individuals who do not always undergo surgery. Cuomo's policy announcement was immediately hailed by activists.
"This is huge news for LGBT New Yorkers, transgender New Yorkers in particular. This issue is something that the Pride Agenda has been advocating for — working closely with the governor’s office — for four years," Allison Steinberg, communications director of Empire State Pride Agenda, told Business Insider.
Steinberg further expects other states to follow New York's lead. (According to Reuters, four other states – California, Oregon, Vermont and Iowa — and Washington D.C. do not require proof of surgery in order to secure a birth certificate sex change.)
"We know that New York in a lot of ways serves as a beacon for the rest of the country," she said. "I think we’ve come a really long way in a really short amount of time. I think that 10 years ago this conversation wouldn’t even be happening but today it feels like common sense."
For their part, Cuomo's allies described the decision as proof he is a true progressive leader.
"The governor's always said that he believes New York has been the progressive capital of the nation and was always the progressive capital of the nation," a Cuomo administration official told Business Insider Friday. "Over the last few years the state lost its way and he's taking it on to make sure that New York takes its place as the progressive capital of the country."
The administration official also indicated these types of issues are especially close to Cuomo's heart.
"It strikes a chord with the governor," the person said.
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