Bloomberg's Case for Marriage Equality

BY Julie Bolcer

May 26 2011 5:05 PM ET

“That’s democracy,” said the mayor. “And the essence of democracy is a
public debate and a public vote. New Yorkers have a right to know where
their elected officials stand. We deserve a vote not next year or after
the 2012 elections but in this legislative session.”

Ross Levi,
executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, part of the New
Yorkers United for Marriage coalition working with Cuomo, downplayed any
prospect of strategic differences in an interview after the speech,
which he roundly praised.

“I think everyone — the mayor, the
governor, the advocates — all agree. No one’s interested in symbolism on
this issue,” said Levi. “Everyone’s interested in winning. I think we
are all squarely on the side of doing everything we can by the end of
this session to have a bill that passes the assembly, passes the senate,
and is signed into law by the governor.”

Richard Socarides,
president of Equality Matters and former LGBT adviser to President Bill
Clinton, called the speech, believed to be the first such major address
by a mayor on the subject, a potential “tipping point.”

“I think
it was among the smartest, most passionate cases for equal marriage
rights as I’ve heard, certainly from a straight politician,” said
Socarides. “I think it’s historic and I think hopefully it will really
help and lead to a victory for this.”

State senator Thomas K.
Duane, the gay Manhattan lawmaker who sponsored the marriage equality
bill in 2009, said he would withhold judgment until senate Republicans,
for whom the mayor has been a major financial contributor, help pass the
legislation.

“The mayor of New York City making a speech about
same-sex marriage is positive because he’s the mayor of New York City,”
said Duane. “There wasn’t anything particularly new in it. The issue
with New York State is to get Republican senators to publicly announce
that they are going to vote in favor of marriage.”

In addition
to his lobbying and the speech, Mayor Bloomberg hosted a fund-raiser
Wednesday evening that generated some $250,000 for New Yorkers United
for Marriage, according to sources. Rufus Wainwright performed, and the
many high-profile attendees included Sarah Jessica Parker, Bravo
executive Andy Cohen, Russell Simmons, and New York City council speaker
Christine Quinn, who delivered remarks.

Advocates anticipate
they could raise as much as $2 million for the marriage equality
campaign, which now appears likely to defy some expectations for a swift
victory and instead continue into the final days of the legislative
session scheduled to end on June 20. Outward attitudes remain cautiously
optimistic, despite a Siena poll
last week that showed public support for marriage equality falling to
54% from April’s historic high of 58%, with opposition increasing to 42%
from the all-time low of 36% last month.

The advocates received
a boost Thursday morning when Joseph Bruno, the 82-year-old former
Republican majority leader of the state senate, reiterated the support
he expressed for marriage equality in 2009 during an interview with the
Talk 1300 radio station in Albany. In contrast to current majority
leader Dean Skelos, who opposes the bill but has vowed not to block a
vote, Bruno prohibited a vote on the legislation when he served as
leader until 2008, at which time he still opposed same-sex marriage.
Also on Thursday, New York State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a
video in support of the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign from
the Human Rights Campaign.

Cathy Marino-Thomas, board president
of Marriage Equality New York, also a coalition member, attended the
Bloomberg speech, where she recalled sending countless pairs of worn shoes to
Bruno over the years. The message was for him to walk a day in her life without equal rights.

“People
come to this in their own way,” she said. “I don’t care how long it
took to get him, but we did. Let’s move forward and win.”





















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