President Trump is reportedly on the cusp of shuttering the White House Council on Women and Girls, an office focused on women's issues that President Obama created in 2009. And in response, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the New York State Council on Women and Girls, which officially launched Wednesday, on the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in New York.
Often, government offices with words like "council," "task force," or "working group" in the titles are essentially powerless, and exist more to express an administration's support for a certain cause than to actually affect any change. From the looks of it, though, the New York State Council on Women and Girls will not be such an organization.
For instance, according to Melissa DeRosa — who serves as both the leader of the council and the secretary to Cuomo — one of the council's top priorities will be to write legislation pertaining to issues facing women and girls, and get it passed. DeRosa told Elite Daily:
One of my major goals in anticipation for the Governor's State of the State address in January is to deliver to him, for consideration, a package of legislation that he should be taking up for next year's State of the State Address in January. I want to be in a position where, come the middle of December, we have a proposal for the Governor Cuomo that he can consider going into the next legislative session.
What types of legislation might the council be considering? DeRosa mentioned a few areas of policy that the Cuomo administration has focused on in the past, including expanding contraceptive availability, enshrining Roe v. Wade into New York state law and decreasing the gendered wage gap. The group is holding its first meeting in September, and it will presumably make some decisions then on where to focus its early efforts.
In addition to that, DeRosa said, the council will solicit feedback and suggestions from everyday women and girls, to ensure that the group is actually living up to its name.
"We are actively reaching out through social media and other outlets where millennials are involved," DeRosa told Elite Daily. "When women and girls get involved in the political process at a young age, it's something they sustain. The political process can only benefit from more women's voices at the table."
The New York State Council on Women and Girls has the full backing of Cuomo — and despite whatever else people might say about Cuomo, he is good at getting the New York state legislature to pass legislation he wants passed. His backing suggests that the policy recommendations that come out of the council will have a fighting chance at becoming law.
POLITICO reported in June that the White House Council on Women and Girls has been effectively defunct since Trump took office, with White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks calling it "redundant." The New York State Council on Women and Girls is a crucial reminder that, regardless of what the federal government does, state governments still have enormous power to shape the lives of Americans and expand opportunities to marginalized groups.
"In New York, we don't believe women's rights are redundant, and frankly, we're sick and tired of this administration throwing women's rights under the Access Hollywood bus," said DeRosa, referencing the leaked audio of Trump advocating sexual assault in 2005. "If they're going to abandon us at the federal level, then we're going to take it up here in New York."