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NY, NJ Leaders React to Obama’s Support of Gay Marriage

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Gay Marriage (Getty Images)

President Barack Obama’s public support for gay marriage on Wednesday has won him praise from local politicians and gay rights supporters.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg applauded the president’s stand. In a statement, the mayor called it "a major turning point in the history of American civil rights."

“No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people – and I have no doubt that this will be no exception,” the statement read. “Today’s announcement is a testament to the President’s convictions, and it builds on the courageous stands that so many Americans have taken over the years on behalf of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, stretching back to the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is marrying her partner later this month, said the president’s statement gives hope to a new generation of gay youth who will grow up knowing there is nothing wrong with who they are.

“When the President of the United States validates you, your family, your friends and your loved ones by saying that yes - you are full citizens who deserve full equal rights - it’s a truly American moment,” she said in a statement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who met with President Obama on Tuesday in Albany, had said the topic of gay marriage did not come up. He believes Obama's support will "boost" efforts to advance marriage equality in many states where it is legal, or where efforts are underway to ban gay marriage.

But not everyone welcomed Obama's new position supporting gay marriage.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, was "deeply saddened" by the president's remarks.

"Catholic Bishops stand ready to affirm every positive measure taken by the President and the Administration to strengthen marriage and the family," he said in a statement. "However, we cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better."

Heading into St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, Andy Dolce, from Rockland County, believed the president's stand will just hurt his reelection chances. "In November when he loses the election, he'll wonder why, because there's so many things he's doing that are against popular belief and civilization so he should lose the election as a result of that."

Bill Donohue, with the New York-based Catholic League, said he believes Obama was forced to take the stand after Vice President Joe Biden's appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday.

"I guess when Joe Biden, his mentor, broke the ice on Sunday, he got so much heat from the gay community and the gay sympathizers, which is the people in the academy and media, that he probably decided he had to let the puss come to the surface and admit it," Donohue surmised.

He thinks the real test is whether Obama's likely GOP challenge this November, Mitt Romney, will immediately call for a constitutional amendment mandating that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

North Carolina voters took that stand on Tuesday when it passed an amendment saying marriage between one man and one woman is the only legal union that will be recognized in the state.

Gay marriage supporters said even with the president’s support, work there's still much more to be done.

Erica Pelletreau, with the Empire State Pride Agenda, said the president's announcement gives "fuel to their fire.”

“There's still numerous other states where it's not legal for couples to get married, that their families are not offered the same protections so there's still work to do,” she said.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, an advocate of marriage equality, said Obama’s “unequivocal support today in favor of all committed couples to marry the person they love is a watershed moment in American history that will provide the leadership needed to finally repeal [Defense of Marriage Act] and win the unfinished fight for equality for all Americans.”

Cuomo did think it's important that Obama did make clear that he considers gay marriage is a civil issue, not a religious matter.

President Obama said his position on gay marriage is his personal position and that he still supports the concept of state deciding the issue on their own.

Cuomo added that if the president could "revisit" the issue, it may encourage others to do the same. Democratic leaders in New Jersey are hoping that will be the case with Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie has often said he has the same position on gay marriage as the president, and reiterated this point when defending his veto of a gay marriage bill passed by the state Legislature earlier this year.

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney noted that he, too, had changed his mind on the issue. "The president has evolved. I know I have evolved from the very first vote I cast. And I'm sure the governor, if he would allow himself to open up his heart, I'm sure he would evolve also," he said.

New York legalized gay marriage in 2011.

Brigid Bergin, Stephen Nessen and Nancy Solomon contributed reporting.

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