The four contenders for the Democratic nod for mayor appeared before Greater Voices, a coalition of queer political clubs, on April 6 at an event at NYU that showcased the strong desire of New York City Democrats to put one of their own in City Hall.
“All four of these candidates are well
qualified to be mayor,” said Gary Parker, president of the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, one of the eight clubs that sponsored the event. “All four are a giant step up from Bloomberg.”
Showing just how far queer New York has advanced, the candidates were asked about their views on issues that are central to the community and also about affordable housing, police-community relations, the West Side stadium and the state of the city schools.
One topic that came up repeatedly was expanding services for homeless queer youth.
First up in the evening was City Council Speaker Gifford Miller who noted the disappointment that many Democrats felt when Presi. George W. Bush won a second term last year and he positioned his candidacy as a continuation of that race.
“I don’t know how we can expect to win Ohio if we can’t take back the most Democratic city in the country,” said Miller who quickly attacked Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
“This mayor has been making the wrong choices,” he said, noting the West Side football stadium that won recent approval by the Metropolitan Transit Authority and that Bloomberg has championed.
“It’s the wrong choice to have focused all this energy to shove this sweetheart deal through,” Miller said.
The speaker said that the city schools are suffering under Bloomberg and that unemployment among African Americans and Latino men remains high. He then noted the mayor’s recent support for gay marriage after four years of insisting that his opinion on that topic was irrelevant. Even as he backed gay marriage, Bloomberg has pressed ahead with a city appeal of a recent state court ruling that allowed same sex couples to wed.
“He used the weight of his office and my and your tax dollars to fight,” Miller said. “The right choice is to stand up and fight for the rights of all New Yorkers I, as mayor, will issue those marriage licenses immediately because it is the right thing to do.”
Miller detailed several pieces of legislation enacted by the City Council, some over Bloomberg’s veto, that are important to the queer community, including the Equal Benefits Bill, the Dignity for All Schools Act and a bill that added anti-discrimination protections for transgenderd New Yorkers to the city human rights law.
Following Miller was Manhattan Borough Pres. C. Virginia Fields who said her 16 years in elected office had given her “broad knowledge of many aspects of government.” She also fired at Bloomberg.
“We have a mayor who governs by exclusion,” she said. Later, Fields likened the queer experience to her life as an African-American woman.
“I know what it means to be locked out,” Fields said. “In my case because of color of skin, in your case, sexual agenda.”
She then cited the recent murder of Rashawn Brazell, a 19-year-old gay Brooklyn man, when asked what a Mayor Fields would do about anti-queer violence.
“I think we are all very concerned about what happened to the young, African-American man out in Brooklyn, Rashawn Brazell,” she said.
Former Bronx Borough Pres. Fernando Ferrer presented third and he noted his support for the gay community that dates to 1983 when, as a city councilman, he backed a city bill that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“I know what it is to come from a community that has had its civil rights denied from time to time,” he said. “One can’t be for some human rights and not for all.”
Ferrer was pressed on his support for state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., a Bronx Democrat who has consistently opposed legislation sought by the queer community.
“When it’s between him and a former criminal defendant who was charged with ripping off people including people with AIDS in the Bronx, easy for me, easy for me,” Ferrer said, referring to charges unproven against former Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr.
Responding to audience questions, Ferrer, like the other three candidates, said he backed establishing “differentiated services” for homeless New Yorkers, including queer youth. He also took a poke at Bloomberg for “the gargantuan waste of our money on a stadium.”
Closing out the evening was Congressman Anthony Weiner, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens. He told that crowd that his support for gay marriage dates to 1998 when he was first ran for Congress.
“I did not get elected in spite of that decision,” Weiner said. “I got elected because of it.”
Weiner hammered the mayor for challenging the court ruling that allowed gay and lesbian couples to wed. Had such nuptials gone forward, Weiner said, it would have given the community the chance to educate their fellow New Yorkers on the issue.
“By him challenging that, not only did he put the full weight of the city behind that decision, but he also denied that opportunity,” he said. Weiner said he tells his conservative constituents that “Sooner or later they are going to live in a New York City where gay marriage is not only legal, but it’s common and they don’t even notice.”
Weiner also took a shot at Bloomberg charging that the mayor had backed the West Side stadium in exchange for support for his administration’s 2012 Olympic bid.
“There is more play for pay in this administration than in any other administration in recent memory,” he said. He said he would continue to pursue the mayor.
“I’m going to hit him with so many rights he’s going to be begging for a left,” Weiner said.
The event’s remaining sponsors were the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, the Lambda Democrats of the Bronx, the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, the Out People of Color Political Action Club, Staten Island Stonewall and the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City.