Volume 75, Number 24 | November 02 - 08, 2005

Talking Point

Why lesbian and gay New Yorkers should vote Ferrer

By Lawrence C. Moss

“Case law closely links civil marriage to the government’s interest in creating stable environments for raising the children that result from opposite-sex couples’ sexual intercourse. Upon such circumstances, there is a rational basis for the DRL’s limitation of marriage to one male and one female.”

—Brief for the city of New York, August 2005, seeking to overturn the decision of the State Supreme Court of New York County, which had ordered an end to marriage discrimination in New York City

With these incredibly reactionary and homophobic words, crafted at the expense of New York City taxpayers at the direction of Michael Bloomberg, the mayor has sought to overturn the decision allowing same-sex marriage in New York City.

It would be bad enough had the mayor remained merely indifferent to marriage equality for gay and lesbian New Yorkers, as he was throughout the first three years of his administration. With same-sex marriages being celebrated legally in Boston as the “Goodridge” decision took effect, the mayor of San Francisco courageously opening the marriage bureau to gay citizens under constitutional principles, and the mayor of Chicago calling for marriage equality, Mayor Bloomberg refused throughout 2004 to state whether he even believed in principle that gay and lesbian New Yorkers should have equal rights to marry. At the same time, Bloomberg personally brought and welcomed the Republican National Convention to New York to launch the homophobic 2004 campaign that secured George W. Bush a second term, and Bloomberg personally contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans who cemented their majorities in both houses of Congress by exploiting the basest homophobic sentiment.

Not content to rest on the indifference to L.G.B.T. civil rights he demonstrated throughout 2004, Bloomberg acted affirmatively in 2005 to roll back the most important court decision for L.G.B.T. equality in New York history. When the State Supreme Court of New York County ordered the city clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian New Yorkers in February 2005, all Mayor Bloomberg had to do was to stand back and allow the clerk to obey the court order. He could merely have said he believed in marriage equality and would not appeal, but that if the governor or the attorney general wanted to intervene and appeal and defend the state law, that was their business, but he was going to simply obey the order.

No longer content with mere indifference to L.G.B.T. equality, the mayor instead instructed the city’s lawyers, at taxpayer expense, to seek a stay and appeal of the order. Adding insult to injury, Bloomberg offered the disingenuous and patronizing explanation that he wouldn’t want people to get married and later face disappointment if higher courts overturned their marriages. Anyone getting married in these circumstances would understand full well the risk they were taking to secure their civil rights, and do not require the mayor’s disingenuous “protection.” The real truth is that by blocking tens of thousands of lesbian and gay New Yorkers from getting married, Bloomberg kept us from establishing “facts on the ground” that would be harder for appellate courts to overturn. Moreover, as we learned in Massachusetts and elsewhere, once marriage equality happens, straight people quickly see it has no adverse effect on their own lives, and opposition to marriage equality diminishes.

There are two additional egregious examples of the mayor’s deliberate obstruction of measures to advance L.G.B.T. equality: (1) vetoing the Equal Benefits Bill (which requires city contractors to provide benefits to committed L.G.B.T. partners equivalent to those they offer married couples), legislation Bloomberg expressly promised to support during his 2001 campaign — and then seeking to overturn it in court after the City Council passed it again over his veto; and (2) vetoing the Dignity in All Schools Act, which prohibits bias harassment in schools based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and then refusing to enforce it when the City Council passed it again over his veto.

To be fair to the mayor, he does not seem to share the personal hostility to gay people of many other Republicans, and many of us may find other areas of public policy where he has acted admirably. But he has forfeited the votes of gay and lesbian New Yorkers by his determined hostility to our equality. The mayor may well be re-elected, but if so it should be without a single gay or lesbian vote, sending a clear message from the L.G.B.T. community that it does not excuse his indifference and hostility to the achievement of equal rights. We will never complete the civil rights revolution begun at Stonewall in New York 36 years ago if we tell politicians there is no political price to be paid for so willfully and unnecessarily obstructing the completion of the equality agenda.

Although coming from an ethnic community often more conservative than the mayor’s Upper East Side precinct, Democratic candidate Freddy Ferrer has continually shown courage to advocate for full L.G.BT. equality, and has pledged to withdraw the city’s appeal, allow gay and lesbian marriages to proceed on an equal basis, and implement the Equal Benefits Bill and the Dignity in All Schools Act. His campaign against the billionaire mayor’s personal fortune may be uphill, but he richly deserves the vote of every gay and lesbian New Yorker, their friends, families and supporters, given the extremely clear choice on L.G.B.T. issues.

Moss is the Democratic state committeeman representing the 66th Assembly District (Greenwich Village, Soho, Noho and Tribeca). He introduced the resolution adopted by the Democratic State Committee in 2003 committing the Democratic Party to equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

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