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Women's Rights Advocates Want Albany To Switch Focus From Lopez Scandal To Equality Act

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Governor Andrew Cuomo's women's equality agenda continues to stir controversy in Albany, and feminist advocates are pressuring lawmakers to bring the bill to the floor. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

In this legislative session, advocates for women's rights have been visible at the state capitol, lobbying for Governor Andrew Cuomo's 10-point women's equality agenda. The bill was unveiled before a firestorm of controversy erupted over the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal, and how Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver handled it.

At a press conference pushing the agenda Monday, advocates refused to criticize Silver for allegedly covering up the harassment.

"The important thing is that we are here to talk about the Women's Equality Act, and we could use this example, we could use examples about every day of women being discriminated against in the workplace," said Christine Sadowski of YWCA of Orange County.

But when reporters would not stop asking about the harassment scandal and why women's groups have refused to be critical of the speaker who they need to get their agenda passed, they were given a pointed response.

"This is now the second or third day when women's advocates have been trying to talk about the women's equality agenda and for some reason the press want to switch it to another story up here," said Manhattan Senator Liz Krueger.

Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin, a Rensselaer Republican, views the situation differently, saying, "I don't know how anyone with a straight face can say that these two are not related. When you talk about women's equality, why don't you start by cleaning up your own house? That's what I would start with, otherwise they look like complete hypocrites."

The assembly speaker said he has the support of his members.

"They have been supportive, they think the members of the media are being rather unfair," Silver said.

The agenda contains an abortion component that Republicans have already said they will not even consider.

State Senator Joseph Robach, a Rochester Republican, said, "There are not only some things that can be taken out that are controversial. I think there are some things that can enhance that. Part of governing is negotiation. We're going to do that."

Cuomo said in an interview on WCNY-AM that he will leave it up to women's groups on whether to take out the abortion language.

"We came up with a program together and we'll act as a coalition, and the coalition point is that they are not willing to give up any of the 10 points because they are all essential," the governor said.

So far, Silver has not publicly answered questions about the lawsuit he is now facing from two of Lopez's victims. He has denied a cover-up, but has admitted he made mistakes.

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