Volume 22, Number 23 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 16 - 22, 2009

Bloomberg now thinks marriage vote is possible

Less than a month after defending his support for Republican state senators saying he could get their votes for gay marriage, Mayor Mike Bloomberg said conservatives in that body will not support what the mayor termed “our number one priority” at a recent campaign event with gay supporters. “Those will not be the Republican votes that I will get, but they will be there for other things that are important to the city,” Bloomberg said in an hour-long interview with Gay City News and its sister papers, The Villager, Downtown Express, and Chelsea Now.

In a September 17 interview with Gay City News, Bloomberg described himself as “the main funder” of the State Senate Republicans, and said he could sway even Brooklyn’s Martin Golden and Frank Padavan from Queens, two conservatives who staunchly oppose gay marriage.

During the October 9 interview with the newspapers, Bloomberg said of Padavan, “On this issue, he’s not gettable.”

While the State Assembly has twice passed a marriage equality bill since gay advocates lost a 2006 court fight before New York’s highest court, the State Senate, which was controlled by Republicans until the 2008 elections, has never held a vote. The Democrats now have a 32-30 majority in the State Senate.

In the past two election cycles, Bloomberg has given nearly $2.4 million to the Republican State Senate caucus and the state Independence Party, which funded Padavan. Two other gay marriage opponents who received some of that cash were defeated.

Bloomberg’s shifting views extended to the possibility of a vote in the State Senate this year. During the September 17 interview, the mayor said the chances for a 2009 vote were “zero, zero,” only to say at the October 1 campaign event, “I actually think in my heart of hearts that this is going to get done.”

When speaking to the newspapers last week, Bloomberg said he had spoken with Dean Skelos, the Long Island Republican who leads the Senate minority caucus, and John Sampson, the Brooklyn Democrat who heads the majority.

“I will say that after talking to Skelos and [Sampson], I am somewhat more optimistic,” Bloomberg said. “I am confident that if it were to come to a vote the Republican leadership would say, Leave it up to everybody’s conscience.’”

While Bloomberg says he supports gay marriage, voters who are weighing his candidacy as he makes his third run for mayor can be forgiven if they are confused. When he first ran for mayor in 2001, he would not take a position on gay marriage. He only became a supporter when he announced the 2005 appeal of a state court ruling that required New York City to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That appeal led to the 2006 loss at the state’s highest court.

In contrast to elected or police officials who have objected to or punished police targeting of gay men in cities like Fort Worth or Chicago, the mayor has been silent on the prostitution arrests of gay and bisexual men in New York City porn shops. In some cases, young undercover police officers arrested middle-aged tourists, accusing them of being prostitutes.

Bloomberg said he had spoken to Ray Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, and thought he might be “doing an investigation” that the mayor did not want to influence.

“I guess the real answer is, from what I understand, it was a few cases,” Bloomberg said. “They are looking at it to see whether or not and I just didn’t want to prejudice the investigation and a little bit of, hopefully, with some press, they don’t do it again… I will say that just thinking about it, ‘But come on guys there are other things to worry about.’”

For Bloomberg, these issues were not the important questions of the campaign.

“The question is in the end who do you think is best suited to take the city forward,” he said.

 





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