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N.Y. Dems Want GOP Marriage Answers

N.Y. Dems Want GOP Marriage Answers

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In a sign of the widespread political reverberations of the federal court decision that struck down the California same-sex marriage ban, New York State Democrats are demanding to know where Republican statewide candidates also backed by the Conservative Party of New York stand on marriage equality.

Candidates with unstated positions include attorney general nominee Dan Donovan and comptroller nominee Harry Wilson. As the state's top prosecutor and chief financial officer, respectively, both offices hold significant powers and potential to advance equality, which Democrats say makes it imperative for their rivals to tell the public how they would use the roles.

New York State Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs (pictured) issued a statement Thursday asking Donovan, the attorney general candidate, to clarify his position on marriage equality following the landmark Wednesday decision from U.S. district judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco. The statement noted the instrumental contributions that attorneys general have made in recent marriage equality cases in California and in Massachusetts, where a federal court struck down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act last month.

"Dan Donovan has run away from the issue of same-sex marriage like the plague," Jacobs said in the statement. "Well, sitting on the sidelines of what may be the defining civil rights issues of our time is no longer an option, not for Donovan or any Attorney General candidate, not after California showed how important a forward-thinking Attorney General can be in promoting marriage equality as a basic constitutional right."

Jacobs also attacked Donovan, now the Staten Island district attorney, for his affiliation with former congressman and borough president Guy Molinari. In 1994, Molinari said that Democratic state attorney general candidate Karen Burstein was unfit to hold office because she was a lesbian.

The Donovan campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Advocate.

In a separate statement Thursday, state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (pictured) demanded to know what his opponent, Harry Wilson, thinks about marriage equality. As the state's chief fiscal officer, the comptroller oversees the one million-member state and local retirement system and the $129 billion public pension fund, potent tools that can be leveraged to create fair-minded policies. For example, DiNapoli directed the retirement system to recognize same-sex marriages in 2007.

"New Yorkers deserve to know Harry Wilson's values," said DiNapoli. "Does he support equal rights, or is he in lock-step with the Conservative Party's opposition to basic civil rights?"

Wilson, who was not immediately available for comment Thursday afternoon, e-mailed a response through a spokesman.

"Harry Wilson holds the same position as President Obama; he supports civil unions," said the statement. "Should gay marriage one day pass in New York, he will fully execute any requirements of the state comptroller 's office under that law."

Wilson, a former hedge fund manager and member of the auto industry task force, has been endorsed by the Conservative Party of New York, which took the national spotlight last year when it helped to push Republican congressional candidate Dede Scozzafava from an upstate special election because of her vote for marriage equality as a state assemblymember. The Conservative Party, which supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, also has endorsed Donovan and Rick Lazio, the Republican candidate for governor.

Compared to the silence of Donovan and Wilson, Lazio has been clear in his opposition to same-sex marriage. Asked about the decibel difference among his endorsed candidates, Conservative Party chairman Michael Long said that all three have personally assured him they are opposed to marriage equality.

"They're all for preserving the sanctity of marriage," said Long, who declined to say whether that extended specifically to support for his party's proposed constitutional amendment.

"In what ways they would participate in that, I don't know," he said.

Meanwhile, on Thursday evening, New Yorkers rallied in downtown Manhattan to celebrate the Prop 8 victory and to call for the election of more equality-minded legislators in the senate, which rejected a same-sex marriage bill by a wide margin in December.
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