Bloomberg Pushes Marriage Equality: ‘Do You Want To Be Remembered As A Leader On Civil Rights?’

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) urged state lawmakers in New York to enact legislation legalizing same-sex marriage during a major address at Coopers Union this afternoon. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) has placed marriage at the forefront of his legislative agenda, promising to enact full marriage equality for gay and lesbian New Yorkers before the end of the legislative session in June.

The three-term Mayor Bloomberg argued that the struggle for full marriage equality is consistent with “the principles that have guided our nation since its founding” and with New York’s history of staying “at the forefront of movements to expand American freedoms.” “It is not a matter of if – but when,” Bloomberg said, before asking New York state lawmakers, “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.

Bloomberg also laid out a comprehensive case for marriage and spoke directly to the six or seven swing senators — the measure will almost certainly pass in the State House — who may decide the marriage issue, addressing each major concern individually:

– EXEMPTION FOR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS: “Now, 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.”

– CONSISTENT WITH CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES: “Conservatives believe that government should not intrude into people’s personal lives – and it’s just none of government’s business who you love!”

– MARRIAGE EQUALITY WILL BENEFIT ALL FAMILIES: “Marriage has always been a force for stability in families and communities because it fosters responsibility. That’s why conservatives promote marriage – and that’s why marriage equality would be healthy for society, healthy for couples and healthy for children.”

– CIVIL UNIONS ARE ‘SEPARATE BUT EQUAL’: “Long ago, the Supreme Court declared that ‘separate but equal’ opportunities are inherently unequal. It took the U.S. Supreme Court nearly 60 years after Plessy vs. Ferguson, which upheld disparate treatment of non-whites, to come to that conclusion.”

Bloomberg stressed that the legislature must vote on marriage “in this legislative session,” pushing back against rumors and reports that Cuomo won’t hold a vote in the Senate unless he is certain that the measure has enough votes to pass.

Marriage equality proponents see the speech as an opportunity to build momentum for final passage. “With the steadfast support of the mayor, Gov. Cuomo and a solid majority of New Yorkers, we’re confident that marriage equality will be the law of the land come the end of June,” said Brian Ellner, senior strategist at the Human Rights Campaign in a press release sent out by New Yorkers United for Marriage — the coalition group coordinating the marriage campaign.