At a City Hall press conference on Sunday and a community celebration at the LGBT Community Center on Monday, elected officials and most of the Democrats running for mayor let Michael Bloomberg know that they are angry with his decision to appeal the order of Justice Doris Ling-Cohan that the city begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Tom Duane, a gay state senator from Manhattan, had both guns blazing, calling Bloomberg “a coward” for challenging the ruling.
“He should stand with our community in this, the most important civil rights battle that we have ever been involved with,” he said.
Christine Quinn, a lesbian city councilwoman, also from Manhattan, said, “This is the second time in less than a year that Mayor Bloomberg has gone to court with my taxpayer dollars and used those dollars to fight to make sure that I am not an equal citizen in this city.”
In 2004, Bloomberg sued to block implementation of the Equal Benefits Bill after the Council overrode his veto of it. The new law requires contractors doing business with the city to treat the domestic partners of their employees the same way they treat spouses for benefit purposes.
Council Speaker Gifford Miller, who announced last Friday that he is formally challenging Bloomberg in the election, said, “After four years of not sharing his personal views [on same-sex marriage], he now says he’s for it in principal, but he won’t fight for that principal.”
Miller ridiculed Bloomberg’s contention that issuing licenses to gay couples would create “chaos.”
“New York City is capable of handling thousands of people descending on the clerk’s office,” he said. “That wouldn’t be chaos; that would be freedom.”
Councilman Bill Perkins is introducing a resolution calling on the mayor to drop the appeal. Failing that, the Council will file an amicus brief on behalf of the gay and lesbian plaintiffs.
“You can’t embrace gay marriage and oppose it with the full force of law. That’s relegating the issue to the back of the bus,” Perkins said, who is running for the Manhattan borough presidency this year.
Mayoral hopeful Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president who has supported same-sex marriage rights since 1996, criticized Bloomberg’s contention that he now favors gay marriage rights but is compelled to appeal the decision.
“It is a sign of leadership to mean what you say,” he said. When asked if he felt the mayor was a coward, Ferrer said, “I would say ‘opportunist.’”
State Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, sponsor of the Right to Marry Bill in Albany along with Duane, said that if Bloomberg is sincere about now supporting gay marriage, “the mayor’s lawyers and plaintiff’s lawyers should have gotten together to protect the decision” as it goes to the Court of Appeals. Gottfried does not expect the legislature to take action as most other states have to bar same-sex marriage either in law or by amending the state constitution.
“Lobbying for the Duane-Gottfried bill has convinced enough people in the legislature that marriage is the way to go,” he said, even while acknowledging that there are not enough votes to pass it.
Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a lesbian from the West Village who went to the legislature in 1991, said, “The mayor talks out of both sides of his mouth. He says he knows what’s right, but would have us believe he can’t do what’s right.”
Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, an Upper West Sider and one of the plaintiffs in another New York marriage lawsuit that lost at the district level in Albany, now being appealed, said, “If we had a mayor with guts who understood that the civil rights movement requires action in court, maybe we would have had a different result.”
Jamie Katz, president of the Gay Officers Action League, called Bloomberg “disingenuous” and complained that the partners of his members get nothing if one of them dies in the line of duty because some benefits are limited to spouses.
“Stop protecting us from disappointment,” he said.
At a packed community meeting at the LGBT Community Center on Monday night, many of the same players addressed the crowd, joined by most of the couples who sued the city for the right to marry represented by Lambda Legal Defense. At the mention of Justice Ling-Cohan’s name, the room erupted in sustained cheers, with Miriam Yeung, the Center’s policy director, noting that Ling-Cohan was the first Asian-American woman elected to the Supreme Court in 2002.
The plaintiffs were given a standing ovation and hailed as courageous throughout the evening. Lauren Abrams said she and her partner, Donna Freeman-Tweed, jumped through all kinds of legal hoops to protect their relationship and their kids.
“We need to be able to get married,” she said.
Doug Robinson, who met his partner Michael Elsasser, “on the A train 25 years ago,” talked about the way that they and their two kids needed to be “linked together” by marriage.
Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said that the mayor’s decision to appeal “denied the city the opportunity to see that the only lives changed [by letting gay couples marry] would be ours.”
Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, another candidate for mayor, recalled growing up in the segregated South. “I know what is like to be given rights and have them taken away,” she said.
A pro-gay marriage demonstration, in the planning before the decision came down, is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Monday, February 14—Valentine’s Day—at the city clerk’s office at One Centre Street across the street from City Hall. The Metropolitan Community Church and Marriage Equality New York are co-organizers.
“Members of the clergy who are authorized by state law to perform legal marriages will perform the same-sex weddings and demand that the city clerk recognize the marriages,” said MCC’s Rev. Pat Bumgardner in a release.
COURTESY OF LGBT COMMUNITY CENTER