A photograph was posted to Twitter of a flyer from the 1982 New York gubernatorial race bearing the slogan, "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo," triggering remembrances and questions about the controversial campaign efforts by Andrew Cuomo to smear Ed Koch.
The offensive slogan originally dates back to the Democratic Party primary in the 1977 New York City mayoral race when the two were political rivals running for the same office, but the Cuomo camp used the slogan again during the lingering whisper campaign five years later, in the 1982 New York gubernatorial race, as evidenced by the photo of the handbill.
In the decades since, many news reports have often repeated assertions that the slogan was the work of Mario Cuomo's ambitious son, Andrew. In the heated Democratic Party primary race, the signs were meant to turn out the vote by stoking gay-baiting fears. "As the race entered its final weeks, supporters of the senior Mr. Cuomo plastered predominantly Italian sections of Brooklyn and Queens with posters that declared, 'Vote for Cuomo, not the Homo,' " according to a report in The New York Times. In spite of the fear-mongering, Mr. Koch was elected as mayor.
A young Andrew Cuomo served as campaign manager for his father Mario's 1982 gubernatorial campaign, when the slogan again appeared on signs, angering Mayor Koch and LGBT activists, forcing Andrew to participate in "tense negotiations with gay advocates, whose support his father was quietly courting," according to The New York Times. The senior Mr. Cuomo was elected as governor. The discriminatory slogan and other factors pushed activists to demand an executive order from Gov. Cuomo, banning discrimination against gay state employees, according to The New York Times, a measure that Gov. Cuomo signed, but which some activists found wanting.
In the late 1980's, the younger Mr. Cuomo advocated the building of a healthcare facility in The Bronx that would only provide care for people with AIDS in a time when people with HIV/AIDS were discriminated against by being provided with segregated care.
Over a decades later, after the younger Mr. Cuomo was elected governor of New York and enacted marriage equality in the state, allowing same-sex marriage, some LGBT activists saw that act as further penance by the younger Gov. Cuomo over his past heterosexism.
Yet, as much as former Mayor Koch milked sympathy out of the Cuomo camp's smear campaigns, former Mayor Koch didn't exactly have a sterling reputation within the LGBT community in New York City. As New York City grappled with a new disease reportedly spreading amongst gay men in the early 1980's, Mayor Koch did nothing to fully mobilise resources or a healthcare response to what would become the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It was widely believed that, at the time, Mayor Koch avoided marshaling help to New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS out of fears that, in the wake of the 1977 Cuomo smear campaign, he would certainly get outed as a homosexual man.
In the immediate days following former Mayor Koch's death, in 2013, the patrician editors at The New York Times published a lengthy obituary that initially censored any mention of former Mayor Koch's complete failure to confront the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in New York City. The whitewashing by The New York Times triggered an angry social media backlash that, at times, overwhelmed messages of grief at the news of former Mayor Koch's death.
For all of former Mayor Koch's internalised self-loathing as a gay man, how much of former Mayor Koch's slow HIV/AIDS response should be attributable to the Cuomo campaign's fear-baiting tactics against former Mayor Koch ?
Did "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo" act to keep former Mayor Koch in the closet, resulting in former Mayor Koch's non-existent HIV/AIDS response, further resulting in the needless deaths of thousands of people with AIDS in the 1980's ?
Besmirching elected leaders, or average people, with accusations of homosexuality have not yet ended. The dark period in American politics represented by the "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo" slogan has not yet ended for some, like U.S. Representative Aaron Schock (R-Illinois), who lives his life in the closet, no doubt, in part, out of gay-baiting fears, in spite of the best efforts of the LGBT community to liberate him.
-- Progress Queens