Volume 22, Number 23 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 16 - 22, 2009
Thompson: Mayor has helped opponents of gay marriage
Weeks after Mayor Mike Bloomberg first said that the prospects for enacting gay marriage in New York this year were “zero, zero,” only to backtrack and offer a rosier assessment, Bill Thompson, Bloomberg’s rival in this year’s mayoral race, said that the mayor was an obstacle to winning that right.
“If he had not appealed it, it wouldn’t be in front of the Legislature right now,” Thompson said of Bloomberg’s 2005 appeal of a state court ruling that required New York City to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “It would be the law in the state of New York.”
That case went to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest bench, where gay advocates lost in 2006. A gay marriage law has twice passed the State Assembly since then, but has not had a vote in the State Senate, a body that Republicans controlled until the 2008 elections. Bloomberg is a major backer of those Republicans.
“Continuing to keep Republicans there in the Senate continues to make it harder and harder for marriage equality to move forward,” Thompson said in an hour-long interview with Gay City News and its sister papers, The Villager, Downtown Express, and Chelsea Now. “If he hadn’t appealed it, there are a number of people who believe that you wouldn’t have had to go through legislation.”
For his part, Thompson, who has been the city’s comptroller for the past eight years, said he was a consistent proponent of gay marriage even when it cost him support.
“I think I’ve always been supportive, I think I’ve always spoken out,” he said during the October 8 interview. “Have I taken a back seat because of the election? Not at all... There are a couple of ministers who said, ‘That’s your position, I can’t support you,’ but that is my position and that is what I believe in.”
On AIDS issues, specifically the high and unchanged rate of new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men, Thompson said Bloomberg had simply not paid attention during his eight years in office.
“I think the Bloomberg administration has ignored the situation over the last eight years,” he said. “I don’t think there has been a focus in schools, as far as education, as far as discussion about condoms and condom usage, as far as sex education.”
On AIDS funding, he objected to the Bloomberg administration moving federal dollars “away from community-based organizations, out of neighborhoods, and into central locations.” A Mayor Thompson “would create focus in that area and the mayor would be speaking out publicly about that,” the comptroller said.
Thompson made the same point when talking about police arrests –– called false arrests in the community –– of gay and bisexual men in city porn shops.
“That’s an instance where it’s clear that people were being targeted,” he said. “The mayor should have picked the phone up and said to the police commissioner, ‘This doesn’t look right, I’d like to talk to you right away’... I thought the mayor would have needed to say, ‘It needs to be ended, it needs to be stopped.’ The mayor didn’t take a strong position on it.”
But his most pointed comments came when he was asked about an October 5 announcement by the Bloomberg administration of a new commission for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning runaway and homeless youth” that includes leaders from homeless, AIDS, gay, and queer youth groups.
“There is a good group of people who are involved who have been put on an advisory group, but it shouldn’t have taken eight years,” Thompson said. “With a month to go they created some focus. That’s a little transparent as far as it’s a political issue –– ‘Let’s create some focus now.’”