“I believe I’m the only candidate for governor who has publicly said I support same-sex marriage,” Spitzer said during the January 25 event sponsored by the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York, a gay political club.
But Spitzer’s office issued an opinion in March 2004 that argued that New York state law does not currently allow for same-sex marriage. Because of that opinion, Spitzer, who hopes to win the Democratic nomination for governor in this year’s September 12 primary, said he had to “confront a continuing question.” Can he explain his opposition to same-sex marriage in the five lawsuits that are currently moving through state courts? His analysis of the state marriage law “has led me to say that the statute doesn’t envision [same-sex marriage], but we must change the law and as governor I will fight to change the law.”
Audience members repeatedly challenged Spitzer on his understanding of state law. He argued that the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, would ultimately have to decide whether the state marriage law by, in his view, barring same-sex marriage violated guarantees in the state Constitution.
“What the Constitution says and mandates is a question that only the Court of Appeals can answer,” Spitzer said.
Of the five lawsuits that seek to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, four have been heard by state appellate courts, the mid-level courts, though only one has received a ruling. Speaking with Gay City News following his speech, Spitzer said his office would continue to assert that state law bans same-sex marriage even if the cases reach the Court of Appeals, though some specific arguments may change.
“I can’t answer that because the briefs haven’t been written yet,” Spitzer said when asked if his office would make the same arguments against same-sex marriage before the Court of Appeals as those it has been making thus far. “The underlying principles will be those put forward in the opinion.”
In a December 12 interview with Gay City News, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a defendant in one of the five cases, said he hoped he would lose his case, but Spitzer declined to express a view when asked if he also hoped to lose.
“I can’t answer that question,” Spitzer said. “As an attorney, it would violate my ethical duty.”
To date, only Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau county executive, has indicated that he will oppose Spitzer in the Democratic primary. Spitzer has been campaigning for months and Suozzi entered the race in early January. In their last campaign filings, made with the state Board of Elections on January 6, Spitzer has $19 million in cash and Suozzi has $5 million. Just over $3.3 million of Suozzi’s cash was transferred from his county executive campaign coffers. Suozzi was invited to speak at the Stonewall event, but did not attend. The state Republican Party has yet to select a candidate for governor.
Following the January 25 event, Stonewall voted to endorse Spitzer in the Democratic primary.
“We endorsed Spitzer overwhelmingly,” said Dirk McCall, the Stonewall president. “There were like four votes that said no and everybody else said yes.”
Other speakers at the event were Alan Hevesi, who is seeking a second term as state comptroller, and three candidates for the Democratic nod for state attorney general—Andrew Cuomo, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration, Sean Patrick Maloney, an openly gay candidate who also worked for Clinton, and Mark Green, the former New York City public advocate. All four are longtime supporters of the queer community.
“In 1995, I endorsed gay marriage,” said Hevesi, who was endorsed by Stonewall. He also called on the audience to aggressively engage political candidates in 2006.
“This is a season of reform,” he said. “There is a movement out there to fix the state of New York… If we don’t take advantage of this opportunity to make every candidate a reform candidate, we will have missed an opportunity.”
Green had not been scheduled to speak and appeared, apparently, only after learning that Maloney and Cuomo would attend. He noted his long career as “an advocate for the disadvantaged” saying, “I want to make sure that all our communities have the stability of marriage.”
Cuomo said he would be an aggressive advocate for the gay community.
“You want someone to aggressively enforce the laws we now have and you want someone to aggressively advocate for you,” he said.
Maloney, who is raising three children with his partner, said, “I don’t just support gay marriage, I have a gay marriage.”
He is not just a gay candidate, Maloney said.
“I don’t want you to support me because of my résumé and I don’t want you to support me because I’m gay,” he said. “I want your support because I’m the best candidate in the race.”
Stonewall has not yet made an endorsement in the attorney general’s race.
Additional speakers included Charles Simon and Linda Rosenthal, two contenders for the 67th Assembly seat representing Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which had been represented by the new borough president, Scott Stringer, and Paul Scoles, an openly-gay Pennsylvania Democrat who is seeking to unseat Congressman Curt Weldon, a conservative Republican.