Advocates Mark What Could Have Been

Bloomberg’s appeal of pro-gay marriage ruling draws protest at end of 30-day stay

Gay and lesbian couples from around the world would have been able to marry in New York City on Friday, March 11 had Mayor Michael Bloomberg not ap-pealed the decision of State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ordering the city clerk to stop discriminating in the issuance of marriage licenses.

“Mayor Bloomberg, do not stand in the way of justice,” said Ian Au of Marriage Equality/ New York in opening a press conference at City Hall with other advocates marking the day. “Marriage is our right under the Constitution.”

City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, a Manhattan Democrat, called it a “sad day for thousands of same-sex couples” and called upon Bloomberg to drop the appeal so that couples who have been together for as long as 50 years “can stop living as legal strangers.”

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, also a Democrat from Manhattan, chided Bloomberg for insisting that the city had “an obligation” to appeal the case, in order to avoid having marriages licensed by the city but later overturned by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

“Who asked you, Mr. Mayor?” Glick said. “We don’t need a paternalistic mayor.”

She noted that she cannot marry her longtime partner, but could hook up with a guy in a bar tonight and marry him tomorrow and “the state would bless that.”

The chief sponsor of the state Right to Marry Bill, Manhattan Democratic Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, said that Bloomberg, who first announced his support for same-sex marriage at the same time he decided to appeal Ling-Cohan’s decision, has not been to Albany to lobby for his bill.

“I’d welcome his support,” Gottfried said.

Gottfried attacked the city’s Law Department for its brief against same-sex marriage in the case, charging that it “contains some of the nastiest language you can imagine.” He also said that there was no need for Bloomberg to challenge the decision to get same-sex marriage before the Court of Appeals because similar cases around the state have already been appealed to the

high court.

City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo issued a statement saying, “Given the conflicting court rulings this vital issue, and the confusion and uncertainty that would prevail were different interpretations of a state law allowed to take effect before a final decision is rendered, it would be irresponsible for the city to do anything other than to appeal Judge Ling-Cohan’s ruling. Issuing marriage licenses that could be nullified in a year helps no one.”

Gottfried noted that Cordozo was president of the City Bar Association at the time that the group issued a report contending that gay couples already had the right to marry under existing state law.

Congressman Barney Frank, a gay Massachusetts Democrat, recently told a New York audience that Bloomberg’s appeal is “terrible for us,” because it denied gay couples the leverage they would have enjoyed if they were already married at the time the case went before the Court of Appeals.

Rev. Pat Bumgardner, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church on Manhattan’s West Side, said of Bloomberg, “We are really lucky he has only two sides to his mouth so that is all we have to track.”

“Mayor Bloomberg is hiding behind what happened in San Francisco,” said Michael Sabatino, who married his husband Robert Voorheis in Canada in 2003, “but what happened there was civil disobedience. New York has a judgment by a court.”

Bradley Curry and Mel Bryant, together for seven years, had a holy union at MCC in 2003, and had a ceremony at the city clerk’s office on February 14 performed by Bumgardner as part of a Freedom to Marry Day action. The city denied them a license.

“Let us get on with our lives and leave us alone,” Bryant said.

Lopez said that she had been threatened by State Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Bronx Democrat and a leading anti-gay marriage activist, with political retribution for her support for same-sex marriage in her run for Manhattan borough president.

Diaz told Gay City News, “The lies have to stop somewhere,” but refused to discuss what he had said to Lopez.

Maria Del Carmen Arroyo, a Democrat who just won a special election to a Bronx City Council seat, was chatting with gay staffers outside the press conference. Asked if she supported the right of gay people to marry, she said she would “reserve” her position, but noted that Diaz “was one of my strongest supporters—enough said.”

Resolutions supporting same-sex marriage were introduced into the City Council last year, but no action has been taken on them.

Ron Zacchi, co-director of Marriage Equality/ New York, said his group intends to keep pressuring Bloomberg to drop his appeal.

“Our community will not stand for it,” he said.

The group plans a march across the Brooklyn Bridge for same-sex marriage rights on May 22, similar to one that drew thousands last year.

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