Mayor Bloomberg gave a forceful speech for gay marriage yesterday at the Cooper Union, placing the marriage equality debate in the context of the fights for women’s suffrage, abolition, and abortion rights. He spoke of the issue nationally, but grounded it in New York’s specific civil rights history, linking it to the Stonewall Riots and, as with his equally passionate speech on the Ground Zero “mosque” controversy last year, to the Flushing Remonstrance.
The audience at Cooper Union was filled with members of the newly created New Yorkers United for Marriage, who received Bloomberg’s words enthusiastically. But beyond that, the reaction has been mixed from gay rights activists. Gay City News reporter Andy Humm wrote that the mayor “is the sole reason that Republicans are in the majority in the NYS Senate as he has propped them up literally with MILLIONS of dollars in just the last several years. And he has repeatedly said that he will NOT stop donating to senators who oppose marriage equality — who also happen to be the ones who oppose GENDA, the AIDS bills we need, and virtually everything else of a progressive nature.”
Other marriage activists are still angry at Bloomberg for appealing a 2005 court decision which found that the Domestic Relations Law violated New York state’s constitution. They hoped that, as the Obama administration has now done with the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Bloomberg administration would not appeal the ruling, opening a legal channel for gay marriage.
Still, the Mayor’s speech offered strong, personal, legal, and political reasoning for the case for marriage equality. Republican Senators are petrified about being kicked off the Conservative Party line on ballots if they vote for gay marriage. It remains to be seen if Mike Bloomberg’s language and lobbying (not to mention deep pockets) can help alleviate those fears.