The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as prepared for delivery at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., October 1, 2011.
Thank you very much, Sarah Jessica, for that kind introduction. Sarah Jessica Parker is a great New Yorker. Make that a fabulous New Yorker. And I can tell you that when we called her last spring and asked her if she would come to a fundraiser on behalf of marriage equality, she didn’t hesitate for a second. Her support meant a lot – and I want to thank her for being there when we needed her, and for being here tonight.
You may not realize this, but Sarah Jessica Parker and I actually appeared in a movie together – almost. The original Sex and the City movie included a scene with the mayor. I was asked to play the role – talk about being type-cast – and I did. But when the film went to the editing room, they cut the scene. Turns out they wanted more sex and less city.
It’s an honor to be with all of you tonight. It’s an honor to receive this award. But mostly, it’s an honor to be able to stand here and say: In the city that I call home, the city that I love, government now allows all couples an equal opportunity to love and marry each other.
In New York, government of the people, and by the people, is now for all the people – as it should be. No place in the world is more committed to freedom of expression – religious, artistic, political, social, personal – than New York City. And no place in the world is more welcoming of all people, no matter what their ethnicity, no matter what their beliefs, no matter what their orientation.
In our city, there is no shame in being true to yourself. There is only pride. We take you as you are – and we let you be who you wish to be. That is the essence of New York City! And that is why we are the most diverse city in the world and the economic engine for the country.
It’s only right that New York became a leader on marriage equality – but this issue isn’t about one state’s traditions and values. It’s about our country’s traditions and values.
There is just no basis in our Constitution – or in our civic values – to exclude one class of couples from a government license. When two people commit their lives to one another, government has no business standing in their way.
And when someone says: Why aren’t civil unions good enough? I’ll tell you why: because there are no second-class citizens, and no second-class couples, in America. It’s that simple. Near equality is no equality.
The principles that have guided our nation since its founding – freedom, liberty, equality – are the very same principles that have driven generations of Americans to expand opportunity to an ever-wider circle of our citizenry.
At our founding, African-Americans were held in bondage. Many Catholics could not hold office. Those without property could not vote. Women could not vote or hold office. And homosexuality was, in some places, a crime punishable by death.
One by one, over many long years, the legal prohibitions to freedom and equality were overcome: Some on the battlefield, some at the State House, and some in the courthouse. 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 story of America. That is the march of freedom. And that is the journey that we must never stop traveling.
This year in New York, we took a major step on that journey – a step that was almost unthinkable just a few years ago – and a step that was accomplished by winning support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers. I’m very proud of that – because this is not a partisan issue.
Marriage equality is fundamentally consistent with both parties’ principles – and especially, I would argue, conservative principles. Limiting the intrusion of government into family affairs, promoting family stability, keeping government out of private contracts between consenting parties: The conservative case for marriage equality could not be stronger!
I made that case to Republican legislators – and I think it resonated. But I have to tell you: when I spoke with undecided legislators in both parties, they didn’t talk about party principles. They talked about something else. Something much more personal.
They talked about their families. They talked about what their spouses and mothers and kids were telling them – and how important this issue is to them. That – more than anything – is why marriage equality passed in New York. And those same conversations are happening around more and more dinner tables across the country.
Of course, we couldn’t have passed marriage equality in New York without the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Legislature and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
We also couldn’t have done it without such a strong and organized advocacy community – and I want to thank Joe Solmonese, Brian Ellner, and everyone at the Human Rights Campaign for your support.
I also want to congratulate all of you – and the President and Congress – for winning the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell! I’d say you’ve had a pretty good year. And now, we have to put our thanks, our votes, and our wallets behind those who did what their hearts told them was the right thing to do – no matter what it meant for their political careers.
Now, there will be some bumps in the road, some setbacks – there always are. We know from all those who blazed the trail before us – not just the great names in history, but the everyday people who marched with them – that freedom’s journey is not quick or easy. But we also know that we travel with the winds of history at our backs. Today, those winds are blowing strong – and as the next generation of voters comes of age, a full force gale will sweep across this country.
To me, the question is not if marriage equality will come to all 50 states; the question is when. And I believe it will be sooner than most people think.
Helping to pass a marriage equality law in New York is something I’m very proud of. Not just because of what it means to American history – but because of what it means to some of my family and friends and their futures. To see their smiles – to hear their stories – to officiate the wedding of two of my colleagues, John Feinblatt and Jonathan Mintz, and to see the joy on their daughters’ faces as they exchanged vows – it’s just been incredibly gratifying.
I’ve gotten to witness what it means for people to experience – for the very first time – the true promise of American equality and the full power of American freedom. That’s a great gift – and one I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
So thank you again for this honor, for making America’s ideals a reality for millions of people, and for helping to keep America moving forward on our journey towards a more perfect union.
Thank you, and have a great night.