Mayor Gets Mixed Parade Reception

Despite blizzard of media buys, parade placards, Bloomberg still has doubters

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg got a mixed reception from tens of thousands of people as he marched on Fifth Avenue from 48th Street to 15th Street in the 36th annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March

“Bloomberg is a hypocrite,” said Cris Gunther, an artist who followed the mayor for several blocks.

The mayor has said he personally supports gay marriage after refusing to take a position on the issue for several years. However, his administration is opposing a February ruling in a New York state court that required the city to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The judge in the case, Doris Ling-Cohan, has stayed her ruling while the city appeals.

“What the gay community really needs is the specificity of a court saying what the current law really does or does not say, whether it permits it or it doesn’t,” the Republican mayor said during a brief press conference before joining the parade. “I have said that if it turns out that it does not, I am in favor of changing the law… The one thing you can’t do is issue marriage licenses that may or may not be valid because it just leaves everybody in limbo.”

Gunther who repeatedly yelled “hypocrite” as he dogged the mayor from the sidewalk said, “I think every gay person should be offended that he is marching in this parade.”

The Bloomberg administration has refused to implement the Dignity in All Schools Act, an anti-bullying bill that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and it filed a court challenge against the Equal Benefits Bill, a local law that requires businesses holding contracts worth $100,000 or more with the city to offer the same benefits to the domestic partners of their employees as are offered to the spouses of their employees.

“The city can’t use its procurement policies to advance social issues because if it did eventually you couldn’t do business with anybody,” the mayor said before the parade.

Bloomberg has won an intermediate appellate court victory in his opposition to the EBB, but last week the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest panel, agreed to take up the here a final challenge to the mayor by the measure’s supporters.

Just as the Bloomberg campaign has blanketed the airwaves and print media, including the gay press, with ads, campaign volunteers stationed themselves along Fifth Avenue from 14th Street to 48th Street an hour before the parade stepped off and distributed signs reading “Mike Bloomberg With Pride” to all takers.

Some of those holding the signs said they were ardent supporters of the mayor and would be voting for him in November. Others took the signs for more practical reasons.

“Someone gave it to me and every bit of shade helps,” said one man who was standing in the sun with friends.

A group of five Japanese tourists who were holding the signs only smiled when asked if they would be voting for Bloomberg in November while a woman from Europe said, “I’m from England,” when asked if she would be voting for Bloomberg.

Some of those holding the signs were Bloomberg opponents and reacted with horror at the suggestion that they supported him. Asked if they were Bloomberg supporters, two young women at 47th Street quickly pointed out that they had folded the signs in half so only the word “Pride” was showing.

A young man at 17th Street had fashioned his own message by tearing the sign apart so it read “Bloom With Pride.” He explained “I’m blooming with pride.”

The mayor received respectful applause and cheers along the route, but he was also occasionally booed and given a thumbs down sign. Most people in the crowd did not react at all either because they did not know who he was or could not see him.

At one early point in the march, the number of photographers and reporters standing in front of the mayor was so large that one young woman standing on the sidewalk treated them like just another parade contingent and yelled out, “Yea, press corps!”

Among politicians who march, perhaps the best predictor of the crowd’s reaction is not necessarily the political positions taken by an officeholder or candidate, but rather their celebrity status.

Just as in prior years, U.S Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who marched from 23rd Street to the West Village, was greeted with deafening cheers and applause, which may reflect the Democrat’s high profile that emerged more than 12 years ago when she became the nation’s first lady rather than any particular postures she has taken in her four and a half years on Capitol Hill.

Buoyed by last week’s endorsement by the Log Cabin Republicans and backed by an army of campaign volunteers on Fifth Avenue, Mayor Michael Bloomberg turns out for LGBT Pride March on Sunday.

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