Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Mayors of about 80 U.S. cities from New York to Los Angeles to Houston are backing a campaign to remove legal barriers to same-sex marriage nationwide.
“The more support we build in our cities and states, the stronger case we can make for extending the freedom to marry to loving couples no matter where they live,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles said today at a news briefing on the issue. Same-sex marriage is illegal under California law.
Legislators in Washington, New Jersey and Maryland are pushing measures to permit the practice, while voters in North Carolina and Minnesota will face ballot questions this year on banning it. Federal law doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, which are legal in New York, Iowa, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.
“Law-abiding, tax-paying families and their children deserve the same opportunities, the same rights and the same responsibilities afforded to every other family,” said Villaraigosa, a Democrat, at the briefing in Washington, where the U.S. Conference of Mayors is meeting. He spoke in support of Freedom to Marry, a New York-based advocacy group that says bans discriminate against homosexuals and infringe on their rights.
Critics say the practice undermines the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
New York Law
Other big-city mayors at the briefing included independent Michael Bloomberg of New York, Democrat Annise Parker of Houston and Republican Jerry Sanders of San Diego. New York state made same-sex marriage legal last year, supported by Bloomberg and other city leaders.
“On average in New York City, 700 gay and lesbian couples are now getting married at the city clerk’s offices” each month, Bloomberg said. “That means every month, hundreds of more parents and children are gaining the economic stability and protections that come with being a formal family unit.”
The mayor added that the change has been an economic boon for the largest U.S. city. He has said that the new law helps companies attract top talent and draws same-sex couples as tourists, including some who intend to marry while in New York.
Same-sex marriage has been a divisive political issue since at least 1996, when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act that lets states refuse to recognize such unions.
Efforts to make the practice legal gained momentum in 2003, when the top Massachusetts court ruled 4-3 that a ban was unconstitutional. In 2004, the city of San Francisco initiated a court battle by letting gay couples wed. Massachusetts became the first state to permit same-sex marriage in May of that year.
Since then, the issue has become the subject of ballot fights in states such as California, where voters passed a constitutional change to overturn a state Supreme Court ruling and ban the practice.
--Editors: Ted Bunker, Stephen Merelman.
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