This afternoon, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, delivered a direct and passionate speech about the importance of marriage equality in New York.
The address, delivered at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, comes on the heels of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's fervent support for same-sex marriage, too. Bloomberg's message was similar to Cuomo's - that the State Legislature should consider the importance of same-sex marriage and vote on the issue before the end of the legislative session in June.
Bloomberg drew parallels between the gay rights movement and historic American movements, including civil rights and women's suffrage. He said:
Throughout our history, each and every generation has expanded upon the freedoms won by their parents and grandparents. Each and every generation has removed some barrier to full participation in the American dream. Each and every generation has helped our country take another step on the road to a more perfect union for all our citizens. That is the arc of American history. That is the march of freedom. That is the journey that we must never stop traveling. And that is the reason we are here today. The next great barrier standing before our generation is the prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples.
"We have come a long way since Stonewall," he remarked, pointing to that event as a catalyst for the gay rights movement and a reason that New York, where the push for equality began, should stand up for marriage equality. He said:
The question for every New York State lawmaker is: Do you want to be remembered as a leader on civil rights? Or an obstructionist? On matters of freedom and equality, history has not remembered obstructionists kindly. Not on abolition. Not on women's suffrage. Not on workers' rights. Not on civil rights. And it will be no different on marriage rights.
He also spoke specifically about religious arguments against same-sex marriage:
I understand the desire by some to seek guidance from their religious teachings. But this is not a religious issue. It is a civil issue. And that is why, under the bill proposed in Albany, no church or synagogue or mosque would be required to perform or sanction a same-sex wedding - as is the case in every state that has legalized marriage equality. Some faith communities would perform them; others would not. That is their right. I have enormous respect for religious leaders on both sides of the issue, but government has no business taking sides in these debates - none.
He ended forcefully and passionately, playing to the crowd's emotions and reminding them of our country's commitment to equality:
In our democracy, near equality is no equality. Government either treats everyone the same, or it doesn't. And right now, it doesn't.
Tonight, two New Yorkers who are in a committed relationship will come home, cook dinner, help their kids with their homework and turn in for the night. They want desperately to be married - not for the piece of paper they will get. Not for the ceremony or the reception or the wedding cake. But for the recognition that the lifelong commitment they have made to each other is not less than anyone else's and not second-class in any way. And they want it not just for themselves - but for their children. They want their children to know that their family is as healthy and legitimate as all other families.
That desire for equal standing in society is extraordinarily powerful and it has led to extraordinary advances in American freedom. It has never been defeated. It cannot be defeated. And on marriage equality, it will not be defeated.
Read the full speech here.
img src (Bloomberg) and src (Rings)