Mayors from across the country on Friday attended a reception during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual D.C. meeting to commemorate the first anniversary of a campaign that features city executives who support marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker, gay Gainesville (Fla.) Mayor Craig Lowe and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn are among those who attended the reception at the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, who is the former mayor of Stamford in his state’s Fairfield County, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who sparked controversy last year when he refused to join the campaign, also made brief appearances.
“This has been an exceptionally monumental year for this cause — the cause of the freedom to marry,” Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said. He noted 294 mayors from 42 states have joined the campaign since his organization formally launched it last January. “One thing I’ve learned that instead of going to Capitol Hill, if you really want to get something done you go to a mayor. You all were a crucial part of the historic wins this year.”
Solomon specifically thanked Villaraigosa, who chaired the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and Nutter for their efforts in support of the addition of a same-sex marriage plank to the party’s platform. He also praised Parker’s decision to join the campaign in spite of backlash she received from socially conservative pastors and others in her city who sharply criticized her public support for marriage rights for same-sex couples.
“If you’re out from L.A. and represent Hollywood and you have to come with the experiences that I come with, it’s a lot different than when you live somewhere where maybe not everybody is quite on board,” Villaraigosa said. “She [Parker] was steadfast in her commitment to this issue.”
Parker further discussed the controversy.
“Talking about marriage strikes a visceral cord in people and it changes the entire debate,” she said. “That is precisely why we have to have that conversation. Domestic partner benefits and the ability to recognize the relationship through complicated legal processes is not the same thing as marriage, which is an institution that we all recognize, that we understand in our hearts and in our minds that speaks across generations… we deserve full equality.”
The reception took place less than three months after voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved same-sex marriage referenda and Minnesotans rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have banned nuptials for gays and lesbians.
The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a same-sex marriage bill. Lawmakers in Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Hawaii are expected to consider the issue in the coming weeks and months.
The U.S. Supreme Court in March will hear oral arguments in cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage in the Golden State in 2008. The justices are expected to issue their rulings in June.
“America would be a stronger place if folks were able to love who they want to love, be who they want to be with, ” Nutter said.
Des Moines (Iowa) Mayor Frank Cownie recalled the 2009 court ruling that struck down his state’s ban on nuptials for gays and lesbians. He described the recall of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who issued the decision as “shameful,” but stressed the fight for marriage rights for same-sex couples continues.
“It’s about equal rights,” Cownie said, noting gays and lesbians flocked to Iowa to tie the knot after the ruling took effect. “Here we are in the Heartland; conservative, really white Iowa and we had some judges that had the guts to stand up in front of everybody and say this ain’t right. Everybody has equal rights and you can’t separate those rights based on anybody’s decision on who they love and who they want to marry. So let’s keep up the right. We’ll keep it going in Iowa.”
St. Paul (Minn.) Mayor Chris Coleman noted to the Washington Blade during the reception that Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, which led the effort against his state’s proposed constitutional amendment, is a former staffer. He said he remains proud that Minnesota is the first state to reject a proposal that “would discriminate against way too many of our citizens.”
“No mayor in this country should allow their residents — their constituents — to be discriminated against,” Coleman said. “This is a seminal moment in this country where the tide has turned and I don’t think there’s any turning back on this one.”