Former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn addresses the opening session of the state's Democratic Convention, in Melville, N.Y., on May 21, 2014.
Richard Drew/AP

Women’s Equality Party pushes for women’s rights on the ballot

New York might soon be home to the first political party dedicated to women’s rights

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul, and former NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have become the faces of the recently launched Women’s Equality Party, whose primary goal is passage of the Women’s Equality Act in New York state. 

The group launched in July, and their immediate goal is to get 50,000 votes on election day in November. If the group succeeds in meeting that threshold, it will be recognized as an official party by the state of New York. Their next objective will be lobbying for passage of the Women’s Equality Act in the state legislature in January.

Former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been a key leader in the push for the Women’s Equality Party.  Quinn – who ran for mayor in 2013, but lost the Democratic nomination to Bill de Blasio – has largely stayed out of the public spotlight since the 2013 election, but has been making more of a public political push since the launch of WEP.  

“We deserve full equality for women now. And come January, we’re going to get it.”
Christine Quinn, Women's Equality Party

In an interview, Quinn told msnbc that the party was launched in response to the state legislature’s failure to pass the 10-point Women’s Equality Act. The 10 points included items such as equal pay, ending workplace sexual harassment, strengthening human trafficking laws, and others.

Governor Cuomo first introduced the bill in 2013, and while the bill passed in the state assembly in both 2013 and 2014, it failed to pass in the state senate both times. In particular, one of the ten points which dealt with strengthening abortion rights in the state became a sticking point for some legislators in the state senate who refused to support the bill if the abortion-related language was in it. The point is described on WEP’s website as “apply the full standards of Roe v. Wade in New York,” and Quinn described it as “codifying Roe v. Wade.” 

“The bill isn’t moving. The people, particularly male elected officials, have had the audacity to tell us ‘we’ll give you nine out of the 10 things you want, but not all 10.’ When have they ever said that to a male official? It just doesn’t happen,” Quinn said. “So we decided we wanted to take it to the election arena.”

“Our focus is electing and supporting the election of people who are going to pass the Women’s Equality Act. We want to raise, in this election, front and center the issue of women’s equality, and the issue of choice and abortion,” said Quinn. The group then plans to re-introduce the bill when the state legislature gets back into session in January. 

In New York, candidates can run on multiple ballot lines. Governor Cuomo, who is up for re-election against Republican Rob Astorino, will appear on four ballot lines on November 4: Democrat, Working Families Party, Independence Party, and the Women’s Equality Party. Astorino will also appear on three ballot lines: Republican, Conservative, and Stop Common Core.  

Also on the Women’s Equality Party ballot line is Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul. 

Beyond getting voters to choose the Women’s Equality Party at the voting booths in November, the group is also pressing candidates running for New York state legislature to take a pledge that they will support all 10 points of the Women’s Equality Act when in office. On their website, WEP is listing all the candidates who have taken the pledge so far, and encouraging voters to vote for those candidates taking the pledge – and to vote against those who have not pledged their support. 

Quinn told msnbc that the women’s equality pledge has been sent to every state senate or assembly candidate, and names of those who sign are being posted on their website. But, she added, “I’m sorry to say we have yet to get a single Republican who has taken the pledge yet.”

“The key thing is, when we get back in session in January, it’s about full equality. It’s not about, ‘we’ll give you this now, and give you the rest later… that doesn’t happen,” Quinn said. 

“We deserve full equality for women now. And come January, we’re going to get it,” said Quinn. 

Andrew Cuomo, New York, Pay Equity and Women in Politics

Women's Equality Party pushes for women's rights on the ballot