New York City mayor urged to allow same-sex marriage
March 02 2004 1:00 AM ET
City council speaker Gifford Miller has called on New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to permit same-sex couples to marry in New York. "In this city of tolerance, diversity, and unity, it is past time that Mayor Bloomberg give the civil right of marriage to same-sex couples and immediately instruct the city clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples," Miller said at a news conference Sunday. Miller accused President Bush of trying to use the Constitution to discriminate against gay couples by calling for an amendment that would ban gay marriage. He said Bloomberg should "stand up for what's right, fair, and just."
Bloomberg, who opposes a constitutional ban, said the issue of gay marriage should be left for the courts to decide. "The city clerk is following New York State law, which does not permit gay marriages," Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler said. "Advocates for it should spend their time persuading Albany to change the law, rather than calling on the city clerk to break it." Skyler said that if the law were changed to permit gay marriage, Bloomberg would make sure the law was followed. The state Health Department has said New York's domestic relations law already bans the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and that New York courts have recognized only marriages between men and women.
Last week Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, N.Y., officiated at the marriage ceremonies of two dozen same-sex couples. West said he won't perform any more gay or lesbian marriages until Saturday, because he has been overwhelmed by the number of people inquiring about the ceremonies since Thursday night, when he announced that it was his moral duty to marry same-sex couples. Now West has a waiting list of 500 people and isn't sure how many couples he'll be able to wed next weekend. He has set up a waiting list on the city's Web site and says he will not accept "walk-ins."
West's decision to wed same-sex couples in the small upstate New York town came after San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom began allowing same-sex marriages on February 12. About 3,400 gay couples have been wed in San Francisco since then, and the city faces several lawsuits challenging the legality of those marriages. West said he hasn't been served with any papers from prosecutors or officials who have said they will punish the mayor for performing what they claim are illegal ceremonies. Ulster County district attorney Donald Williams said he is waiting for a police report to determine whether to prosecute. New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer refused a request from state health officials to block the marriages, but he did not issue an opinion on whether the unions were legal.