City Council reps in boro support same-sex nuptials

By Alex Davidson

Several City Council members from Queens said they support gay rights activists who are seeking to be legally married in New York City as advocates for the proposal brought their fight to City Hall with planned rallies and protests.

The debate about whether to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples has come to a head in New York City as supporters of same-sex marriage have won victories in San Francisco and in upstate communities such as New Paltz.

“I think if people want to get married, they should be allowed to,” Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said in a telephone interview. “If the administration of the government needs to make changes, they should make the changes. It (same-sex marriages) should and will end up as a legislative process.”

A rally at City Hall was scheduled for Thursday where more than 50 same-sex couples were planning to apply for marriage licenses. The city has yet to announce an official policy on same-sex nuptials.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he does not support fellow Republican President George W. Bush’s endorsement of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only possible between a man and a woman. A mayoral spokesman issued the following statement:.

“The city clerk is following New York state law which does not permit gay marriages,” Ed Skyler said. “Advocates for it should spend their time persuading Albany to change the law rather than calling on the city clerk to break it. If the law is changed, the mayor will make sure it is followed.”

Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who leads the Queens delegation, said he was hesitant to fully endorse same-sex unions but conceded that from a civil rights point of view gays and lesbians should be allowed to wed.

“It’s a civil rights issue to me, on one hand and on the other hand it’s not something I’m comfortable with my children being constantly exposed to,” Comrie said in an interview this week. “I’m not looking to supersede anyone’s moral authority, but we need to protect people’s civil rights.”

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) has said he supports the concept of same-sex marriages in New York City.

New Paltz was the first village in New York state last week to marry same-sex couples and will soon be followed by Ithaca, where officials have said they will start accepting requests from gay and lesbian couples wishing to wed.

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer denied a request by Gov. George Pataki to issue an injunction to prevent New York municipalities from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Councilman Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) had the following comment on same-sex marriages in New York City: “My personal feeling aside, I am of the belief it is a state issue and that generally, two people should have the same rights as any other two people.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsrom last month became the first leader of a major city to start issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples despite questions about the legality of such documents. Since then, more than 3,400 couples have participated in marriage ceremonies.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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