Karen Ocamb

Mayors Advocate for Same-Sex Marriage Nationwide

Filed By Karen Ocamb | January 23, 2012 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Anise Parker, Antonio Villaraigosa, Freedom to Marry, gay marriage, Jerry Sanders, marriage equality, Michael Bloomberg, same-sex marriage, US Conference of Mayors

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officiates at the marriage of Bruce Cohen and Gabriel Catone at LA City Hall on June 23, 2008 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Last Friday, Jan. 20, Freedom to Marry launched its latest campaign to create a groundswell to win marriage rights for same sex couples. At a news conference at the US Conference of Mayors conference in Washington DC, Democratic mayors Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and Annise Parker of Houston and Republican mayors Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Jerry Sanders of San Diego announced that they are helping lead the new “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” campaign. So far, 80 mayors are participating - including Glendale Mayor Laura Friedman - with a request for LGBT people and straight allies to call on their mayors to sign on.

For many of these mayors, the political is personal. Parker, for instance, is an open lesbian in an 21 year-long partnership. Sanders’ daughter is a lesbian, which is why he so strongly opposed Prop 8 in 2008 (see moving video here. Read Sanders’ statement after testifying at the AFER federal trial against Prop 8 here). Bloomberg said he wants New York City to be a gay wedding destination after marriage rights were secured in New York.

And Villaragosa - well, he's been supportive of marriage equality since at least 2000 when he co-chaired the campaign against Prop 22 and contributed $10,000 of his own money to the effort. When California won marriage rights in 2008, Villaraigosa officiated at the June 23, 2008 wedding of Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen and art consultant Gabriel Catone – the first same sex nuptials in City Hall. Cohen and Catone are still legally married in California, despite the passage of Prop 8.

A Christian activist disrupted Cohen’s ceremony, but Cohen said such antigay attitudes will change:

“I truly believe that that’s going to change – that that does change – love story by love story by love story, week by week. And that the more people see these love stories developing starting last Tuesday and over the next couple of months, not all at once but couple by couple, person by person, people are going to begin to feel the same way we feel – which is: ‘All right, you can have differences of opinion, we don’t have to agree on everything – but wow! These people have as much a right to happiness and marriage and love as any other Americans do. It’s part of our birthright as Americans, from the Statue of Liberty and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence – that’s what we love about this country.’ And I think more and more people are going to start agreeing with that.”

Here’s video from the Jan. 20, 2012 news conference:

At the news conference, Villaraigosa said:

“Law-abiding, tax-paying families deserve the same opportunities, rights and responsibilities afforded to every other family in this country. The more support we build in our cities and states, the stronger case we can make for extending the freedom to marry to loving couples, no matter where they live. Because, if we truly believe in family values, we should value all families. Denying gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry weakens society by hurting our communities, neighbors, and families.”

Sanders told the story of his journey to support the freedom to marry:

“My opinion on this has evolved significantly. The arrival of the resolution in my office forced me to reflect and search my soul for the right thing to do. I decided to lead with my heart, to do what I thought was right, and to take a stand to bring justice to our community. I couldn't tell an entire group of people that they are less important, less worthy or less deserving of the responsibilities and protections of marriage than anyone else because of who they love. Vetoing the resolution would have been inconsistent with the values I have embraced over the last 30 years. Several years ago I thought that civil unions were fair--but I came to realize that a separate but equal institution is not something I can support. I think that my community understands and increasingly agrees with my position today.”

Villaraigosa's office put out this press release with Freedom to Marry after the event:


Mayor Villaraigosa will Chair Bipartisan Coalition

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Mayor Villaraigosa today attended the launch of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry at a press conference held at the 80th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C. Mayor Villaraigosa will chair Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, a bipartisan group of 80 mayors who have pledged to support the freedom of same-sex couples to marry.

"If we truly believe in family values, we should value all families," said Mayor Villaraigosa. "Denying gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry weakens society by hurting our communities, neighbors, and families. We hope other mayors will sign the pledge and join Mayors for the Freedom to Marry."

The group includes mayors from cities and towns--large and small--with diverse geographic, ethnic and political backgrounds. The list includes the mayors of America's four largest cities--Michael Bloomberg of New York, Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, and Annise Parker of Houston. It also includes mayors from cities including Juneau, Alaska; Des Moines, Iowa; and Bloomington, Indiana. View the full list of signers here.

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry is part of Freedom to Marry's federal campaign to expand public support for ending marriage discrimination. Mayors who sign on will employ tailored strategies for making the case for the freedom to marry in their communities. Many mayors who represent cities in states where marriage is not yet a reality will advocate to pass laws to secure the freedom to marry. Others will make the case to their congressional representatives to end federal marriage discrimination by repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). All are making a statement as to why marriage matters in their communities, how it improves the quality of life for their constituents, and how it makes their communities economically stronger.

"A majority of Americans now support the freedom to marry for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples, according to multiple reputable national polls," said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry. "Many Americans who for decades opposed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples are rethinking their position, and hearts and minds are changing. We are proud - and thankful - for the leadership these mayors from across the country are showing in support of this cause."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, who also is also a chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, discussed the positive impact allowing couples the freedom to marry has made in New York.

"In only a season, the freedom to marry has already made New York a stronger state. This isn't about partisanship or ideology. It's about extending the freedoms of our country to all people, and ensuring equal protection under the law. Mayors understand that welcoming committed gay couples to the rights and responsibilities of marriage isn't just the right thing to do. It's also the smart thing to do for the diverse, dynamic, forward-looking cities we're all working to build."

Republican Mayor of San Diego and fellow chair of the group Jerry Sanders, who became a powerful advocate for marriage when he announced in 2007 that he would sign a city council resolution in support of the freedom to marry told his personal story of how his views evolved.

"Allowing loving and committed couples to join in marriage has benefits not just for couples and their families--but also for society. Marriage encourages people to take responsibility for each other, provides greater security for children, and helps our country live up to the promises set forth in our founding documents. These are important values for a strong society, and we should encourage them."

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry chair Annise Parker, Mayor of Houston, highlighted the important role of community leaders working together.

“Everyone here believes in the vital importance of marriage to our constituents, to our communities, and to our country. Together, we will work to ensure that our cities have what they need to thrive - and in order to keep our cities competitive in business and welcoming in culture, we will work hard to win the freedom to marry everywhere and end federal marriage discrimination once and for all.”

Boston Mayor Tom Menino--former President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and a chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry--said that extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples has been a benefit to his city's economy.

"Cities that cultivate diversity are places where creativity and innovation thrive," Menino said. "We've now had the freedom to marry in Boston for almost eight years. Since then we've seen more same-sex couples move to the city, and with that economic development, urban revitalization, and a spirit of pride and progress that are hallmarks of Boston."

U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran also gave remarks.

“Building on our long track record on civil rights, the U.S Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution in 1984 calling for the legal protection of gay and lesbian rights at all levels of government and one in 2009 calling for marriage equality for same-sex couples," Cochran said. "Our support is unwavering.”

Mayors who participated in the launch included Laura Friedman of Glendale, CA; Bill Finch of Bridgeport, CT; Pedro Segarra of Hartford, CT; Joy Cooper of Hallandale Beach, FL; Elizabeth Tisdahlof Evanston, IL; Jeff Slavin of Somerset, MD; Setti Warren of Newton, MA; Paul Soglin of Madison, WI; John Callahan of Bethlehem, PA; Sam Adams of Portland, OR and Craig Cates of Key West, FL.

(Crossposted at LGBT POV)

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