Christine Quinn on the Women’s Equality Party what issues affect LGBTQ women


This Tuesday, November 4th, it’s once again time for Americans to head to the polls. Midterm elections typically bring in fewer voters, but there are major issues across the country that will have profound effects on women’s health. Yes, once again, people are trying to legislate our bodies. Must be Tuesday. In New York, former Speaker of the New York City Council, Christine Quinn (D) is working hard with the fledgling Women’s Equality Partyto advance women’s rights in the state, and eventually across the country. If the party can garner enough support, it can become a real power player in future elections and legislation furthering women’s equality.

AfterEllen sat down with Christine Quinn, who is openly gay and has campaigned for LGBTQ rights for years, to talk about this election, the Women’s Equality Party, and why we all need to get out the vote in this and every election.

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AfterEllen: How did you get involved in the Women’s Equality Party?

Christine Quinn: Well, when I was Speaker, I was very supportive of the efforts in Albany of the Governor (Cuomo) and others to try and pass the Women’s Equality Agenda (WEA). In fact, some of the provisions of the WEA, like protection against discrimination for pregnant women, we enacted on the city level. We can’t do everything that Albany can do, but a number of the things we could do like pregnancy discrimination, we did do that in the city. After leaving office, among other things, I joined the board of NARAL (Pro-Choice America). In part, because I was just furious that the State Senate had left Albany without passing the Women’s Equality Agenda into law, and women’s issues of choice in particular have long been a passion of mine and something that I’ve worked on when I was an elected official and before.

So I was working on this whole issue as part of NARAL, and the idea came about to create a party line to make it clear that women were furious, and women’s supporters were furious that the agenda didn’t get passed. So when I heard about that, it was something that I absolutely wanted to be a par of, and it really is an extension of the work that I have done in elected office and the work I was doing with NARAL. It’s been great to have the opportunity to push forward towards next Tuesday (Nov. 4th) and hopefully we will get 50,000 or more on Tuesday and hopefully be able to move into the next phase of it. But whether we get 50,000 on Tuesday or not, part of the job we have to get done is number one, to get the WEA passed in Albany. Whether that’s as part of the Women’s Equality Party or as part of the NARAL board, or as a private citizen, that’s going to be job number one for me, leading up to and after January 1st.

AE: What are some of the key battleground areas in this upcoming election?

CQ: One of the things that’s interesting to me is that the WEA is a ten point plan. Pay equity, protection for domestic violence victims, strengthening laws against human trafficking, codifying Roe vs. Wade, among others. Now, our opponents have gone all over the state (New York) lying. Just bold faced lying about the provisions of the WEA. Literally saying insane things, like if we codify Roe vs. Wade, dentists will be able to give abortions. Now, not for nothing, we’ve had Roe vs. Wade in this country for forty years. Have you ever heard of a dentist performing an abortion? Of course not. That’s not what Roe vs. Wade did, and it would be ridiculous. So I think the fact that our opponents are just traveling the state, county to county, lying, lying, lying, really underscores how important this issue is and how afraid our opponents are of the power of women. That’s what this party is about. It’s adding to the voice of women and it’s adding to the power of women and really helping us flex our political muscle.

AE: Is the party currently working on, or plan to address any key issues that involve LBQT women in particular?

CQ: I think that there is no question that one of the other tragedies of Albany is that we don’t have gender. That we have a gay rights bill, but not a transgender rights bill in New York. Last year in the session in Albany, many of the Senators said, just take nine out of ten of the provisions of the WEA. We’ll come back and do the tenth one, codification of Roe vs. Wade, later. And myself as a queer activist said, “Don’t take that deal.” We were offered that deal. We took that deal. And you know what? It’s years and years later and they never came back around like they promised, and did transgender civil rights. So I think there is a real parallel here, and right now for the Women’s Equality Party in our formation stage, our platform is around the WEA.

But when we become a party, obviously we’ll have to grow beyond that. I could absolutely see things like gender, issues around lesbian, bisexual, transgender women’s health issues, and other things like that, clearly becoming part of our agenda. As well as issues like the ban on surrogacy in New York State, which clearly is something I think most people don’t even know about. Sen. [Brad] Hoylman has a bill to get rid of that ban. For me, it will be a party so I won’t get to make unilateral decisions, but for me, that would certainly be an appropriate issue for the Women’s Equality Party. As would gender and lesbian and bisexual women’s health issues.

AE: It’s tough to get people out to vote period, but especially for an election that is not in a presidential election year, but why is it important that women get out and vote on Nov 4th?

CQ: Well, in the simplest terms, if you don’t vote, you don’t count. You don’t vote, you don’t kind of exist in the political realm. The way you show you are, and the way you show what you care about is by voting. I was at a rally last week for Women’s Equality with Hilary Clinton and she said very clearly, and I’m paraphrasing, she tells her friends: “If you’re not going to vote don’t talk about it.” I don’t want to hear you complain. And that’s the truth of it. I really believe part of the reason that the WEA didn’t pass, is because Albany’s senators think we don’t care enough about these issues as women and men who support us. They think we’ll be pissed, but we’ll get over it. They think this isn’t an issue for us, that it’s not core. We need to show its core. We need to show we haven’t gotten over it, and it is fundamental. You do that, by voting, by how you vote and activate and advocate with your elected officials.

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