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Free from the "yes" or "no" constraints of a lightning round, New York City comptroller and Democratic mayoral candidate William C. Thompson Jr. took an opportunity Wednesday to revisit what he called a "dumb" way to ask a question about whether President Barack Obama has done enough for gay rights during Tuesday night's mayoral debate.
Thompson responded "yes" to the question, which required a one-word answer, while his opponent, incumbent mayor Michael Bloomberg, said "no." Coming just two days after the National Equality March, Thompson's answer raised eyebrows among some boosters, while the Bloomberg camp seized upon his response amid the air of disappointment many LGBT activists feel with the Obama administration.
The comptroller and candidate took care to explain his answer, and to criticize the simplified question, at a fund-raiser that drew about 70 LGBT supporters Wednesday night on the Upper East Side.
"Lightning rounds, dumb questions, yes, no's on things," he said. "It would have been easy to have said 'No.' And the truth is, has he done enough? Can he do more? Yes, he can."
In an interview afterward with Advocate.com, Thompson, who was endorsed by Obama last week, stressed that the president's record should be considered in light of his short time in office. "Is there more that he could have done? Yes. Did I want to take the shot at him over that last night? No, I didn't," said Thompson. "I think he's been there for a very short period of time, and that's why I answered the question the way I did."
Thompson also challenged the appropriateness of the question for a "yes" or "no" format. "It wasn't a question that could have been answered necessarily 'yes' or 'no,' and it shouldn't have been asked that way, and I did have a problem with it being asked that way," he said.
He also said that he understands the frustration and impatience felt by many LGBT activists, particularly in New York, where marriage equality legislation remains mired in state senate politics. "I understand the impatience in New York state, where marriage equality hasn't happened while other states continue to move along," he said.
New York City councilwoman Rosie Mendez, an out lesbian who spoke at the Wednesday fund-raiser, laid the delay in marriage equality directly at the feet of Mayor Bloomberg, who appealed a 2005 decision by a Manhattan district judge that upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry. "Our mayor, who says he supports gay marriage, is the reason why we don't have gay marriage," said Mendez,
At the time of the appeal, Bloomberg said he agreed with the lower court judge, but that the matter should be decided by the state's high court. The high court ruled in 2006 that the state constitution does not grant same-sex couples the right to marry.