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Bloomberg Must Speak Up on Gay Marriage

by Christine Quinn, Mar 08, 2004
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Related Article:
New York And Gay Marriage by Allen Roskoff

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Since taking office over two years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has avoided making a clear statement on gay marriage. Last week, the mayor's press officer said Bloomberg's opinion was "irrelevant." Last summer, the mayor said he believed that "the government should not get involved in who people marry."

When Bloomberg ran for office, he said he was going to be a leader and not hide behind politics. To this day, we still don't know the mayor's position on this critical civil rights issue. Dodging the issue of same-sex marriage isn’t leadership. Where is the leader Mike Bloomberg promised us?

I am calling on Michael Bloomberg to tell New Yorkers where he stands on gay marriage. It is important to know his personal position and his position as the mayor of New York City.

If the mayor feels that New York state law needs further clarification - as New York State Attorney Eliot Spitzer stated last week when he said that New York's marriage laws raise constitutional questions involving equal protection - then Bloomberg should make that known to state legislators in Albany.

The mayor has lobbyists working in Albany everyday to change the laws in ways that benefit the city and to change the laws in the ways that he wants them changed. His personal position does matter.

If the mayor is in favor of gay marriage, than he should immediately instruct the city clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Many believe - as do I - that New York law regarding marriage is gender neutral. Even Mayor Bloomberg’s top legal advisor - corporation counsel Michael Cardozo - approved a study that upheld the right of gays to marry in New York. When Cardozo was president of the New York City Bar in 1997, the association issued a report calling marriage a fundamental right that should be available to all couples, regardless of gender. Now he should advise the mayor accordingly.

Same-sex marriage is also consistent with New York public policy, which grants domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples. In 1983, Governor Mario Cuomo issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and providing health insurance to same-sex domestic partners of state employees. In 1986, Mayor Ed Koch signed legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 1993, Mayor David Dinkins established a domestic partner registry with the city clerk. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, including all city employees, already have access to domestic partnership benefits.

But at this point, I even question Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment to domestic partnership.

I recently introduced legislation into the City Council, called the Equal Benefits bill, that would require companies who have contracts with the city of $100,000 or more to provide the same benefits to employees with domestic partners as they provide to employees with spouses. San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and the state of California all have similar measures. There is no reason for the mayor not to support this bill, yet the Bloomberg administration recently testified in opposition to it.

Marriage can be a religious institution, but it is not exclusively a religious one. New Yorkers go to city office – the city clerk or the county clerk – to get the government license that sanctions, affirms, and establishes a marriage. Government has the responsibility to protect the civil rights of its citizens and to make sure that lesbian and gay families are offered the rights, benefits, privileges, and respect that they deserve.

And as the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg has an obligation to speak up.

Christine Quinn represents the district 3 neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Midtown, Clinton, and Hell's Kitchen in the New York City Council.


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