Whether the heat has gone out of the issue in New York or everyone is just waiting to see what the courts do, actions for and against same-sex marriage were more modest this year. The 50 people Marriage Equality New York turned out was up a bit from last year, but nowhere near the hundreds that rallied in 2004. And the City Action Coalition (CAC), that brought 300 ministers to City Hall last year, had a lower key assemblage of about 25 on the steps of the building this Valentine’s Day.
Who is winning the battle of New York? Rev. Joseph Mattera, a Sunset Park pastor who is a spokesman for the coalition, said, “We’re holding down the fort. I don’t think we’re losing or winning.”
While gay marriage supporters won a lower court decision in the City last February, Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg appealed and had it overturned by the Appellate Division, only to tell Gay City News in December that he “hoped” he would lose his own arguments at the Court of Appeals.
Reverend Michael Faulkner said that when they met with Bloomberg last year, he assured them that while he supported same-sex marriage, he would not actively lobby for it. During that election year, the mayor said he would only press the case for gay marriage in Albany if he successfully blocked it in the Court of Appeals. But by year’s end, he was suggesting that he would ask the state Legislature to move an equal marriage bill this year.
While many states have moved constitutional amendments blocking same-sex marriage and civil union, New York, which does not allow for citizen initiatives on the ballot, has not even considered such a clause. There are bills for and against same-sex marriage in Albany, but neither is seeing any action.
Out lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn indicated last month that she does not have the votes of her members to pass a resolution supporting the right of gay couples to marry. While the CAC opposes her on this issue, its leaders had only kind words for her personally, Faulkner calling her “a great legislator.”
The coalition is pressing for the federal Marriage Protection Amendment and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said last week he would schedule another vote on it the week of June 5. But neither side believes either house of Congress has anywhere near the two-thirds vote necessary to pass it on to the states where three-fourths would have to ratify it.
Faulkner hopes “traditional marriage will be insulated from activist judges.”
Reverend Pat Bumgardner, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, and Marriage Equality NY activists tried to enter City Hall Plaza to listen to the coalition press conference and respond to it. Police refused their entry, a far cry from what happened this summer when a gay press conference was held for Democratic mayoral nominee Freddy Ferrer and police stood by as Christopher Brodeur, a fringe candidate for the office, was allowed to crouch directly in front of Ferrer with a sign condemning him. Gerard Cabrera of the Out People of Color Political Action Club has filed a civilian complaint for the police’s failure to separate Brodeur from the press conference, but no action has been taken on it.
Undelivered remarks prepared by Bumgardner included: “No matter our religious convictions or beliefs, every American should be deeply concerned about the move afoot to turn this land based on the premise that all are created equal into a pseudo-theocracy where only a select few are accorded full citizenship based on the false conviction that God cherishes, blesses, loves, and sanctifies some life and discards other life.”
Faulkner took pains to say after his press conference, “Gay people are first and foremost people and need love and care,” but he and his coalition “oppose the mainstreaming of a lifestyle.”
While gay and religious conservative demonstrators remonstrated respectfully outside the gates of City Hall, there was no evidence that minds were changed or, on this Valentine’s Day, hearts.