After years in which he avoided taking a position, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appeared ready to come out publicly last Thursday night with his position on same-sex marriage.
Speaking to a gathering of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA), the mayor said that he was in favor of same-sex marriage and was working behind the scenes to help change the law in Albany.
“Bloomberg started out by saying he couldn’t address our group without addressing the marriage issue,” Pamela Strother, NLGJA’s executive director, told Gay City News. “He said that he will continue to enforce the law, but then he said he thought the law should change. The audience noticed that it was the first time he was stating his opinion on the issue.”
The next morning, however, Bloomberg’s communications staff was working overtime to backtrack.
“Mayor Bloomberg does not have a position on same-sex marriage,” his press office said in a written statement issued Friday mornning. “He wouldn’t object if the law is changed. But no one should interpret this as support for changing the law.”
The flip flop was particularly strange considering that the mayor did this in full view of a group of journalists––even if they weren’t working––gathered at the ABC studios in Times Square.
Other journalists in attendance were unable to speak on the record to Gay City News, since their own news organizations were also following the story, but several, including one who took verbatim notes, confirmed that Bloomberg said he supported gay marriage. Reportedly, the mayor was able to see some of the journalists with press tags taking notes.
“I believe the law should be changed,” the mayor said according to one account.
“The Attorney General issued his opinion and I believe in the rule of law and I intend to abide by it,” Bloomberg added, voicing his agreement that under current state law, gay marriage is not authorized. He continued, “I don’t think the way you make change is to grandstand, but to convince legislators one-by-one. But I think the law should be changed.”
The Mayor’s statements Thursday evening contradicted statements he had made at a press conference earlier in the day when he refused to state a position.
And throughout the weekend, the mayor continued to edge away from his surprising remarks to the gay journalists.
On Saturday, speaking in Rockaway before the start of the Queens County St. Patrick’s Day parade, certainly a more conservative venue than the Thursday evening event, Bloomberg said, “I’ve gone back and forth in my mind as to where I really stand, but I think everybody deserves to have the same rights.” He would not say whether he would lobby the state Legislature on the issue, responding, “We’ll see. I go to Albany a lot,” according to The New York Times.
The following day, at the inclusive St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside, where Bloomberg seemed uncomfortable walking alongside Mayor Jason West, the Green Party leader who brought gay marriage to upstate New Paltz, the mayor shed no additional light on the topic.
Councilmember Christine Quinn (D-Chelsea) earlier in the week called on Bloomberg to “come out of the closet” on the issue and held up a sign with a big “798” on it marking the number of days in office in which he has yet to state his position on same-sex marriage.
Fernando Ferrer, who narrowly lost the Democratic primary for mayor in 2001 and is a likely candidate for the office next year, called Gay City News on Thursday to offer his solution for same-sex marriage in New York. A supporter of the right of gay people to marry since 1996, Ferrer said, “People who are in office right now will serve the cause better by going into court and asking for a declaratory judgment” on the constitutionality of the state marriage statute.
Ferrer was eager to weigh in on an issue that a potential Democratic mayoral rival, Council Speaker Gifford Miller, grabbed headlines with on February 29 with his City Hall press conference pressing the mayor to order the city clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the city’s corporation counsel say that the statute does not allow for same-sex marriages, though Spitzer also said that the state must recognize legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Ferrer suggested that the City Council could order the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, a contention with which Miller has disagreed.
Ferrer said that once the issue goes into the courts, “opponents will have trouble proving that the state constitution does not prevent discrimination” in marriage.
“The mayor and the Council should ask for a declaratory judgment,” he said.
The mayor’s office had no comment on Ferrer’s proposal for resolving the constitutionality of the state marriage statute.