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Bloomberg Speech

Bloomberg Speech

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Published by: towleroad on May 26, 2011
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, NY 10007
May 26, 2011 No. 178www.nyc.gov 
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as prepared for delivery at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Please check against delivery.
“I want to thank Rachel and our hosts here at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.“I think it’s fair to say that no institute of higher learning has had a more profound impact onthe course of American history than Cooper Union. By opening the doors of its Great Hall toAbraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and so manyother pioneering leaders, and by hosting the founding of the NAACP, Cooper Union has helped push American freedom ever higher, and ever wider.“Today, we gather in this innovative and striking new academic building – a symbol of howCooper Union has always looked forward and always championed progress. We gather – in thetradition of those who came before us – to discuss a momentous question before our nation and our great State of New York: Should government permit men and women of the same sex to marry?“It is a question that cuts to the core of who we are as a country – and as a city. It is aquestion that deserves to be answered here in New York – which was the birthplace of the gayrights movement, more than 40 years ago. And it is a question that requires us to step back from the platitudes and partisanship of the everyday political debate and consider the principles that mustlead us forward.“The principles that have guided our nation since its founding – freedom, liberty, equality – are the principles that have animated generations of Americans to expand opportunity to an ever wider circle of our citizenry. At our founding, African-Americans were held in bondage. Catholicsin New York could not hold office. Those without property could not vote. Women could not voteor 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 wereovercome: 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 participationin the American dream. Each and every generation has helped our country take another step on theroad to a more perfect union for all our citizens. That is the arc of American history. That is themarch of freedom. That is the journey that we must never stop traveling. And that is the reason weare here today.“The next great barrier standing before our generation is the prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples. The question is: Why now? And why New York? I believe both answers start atthe Stonewall Inn. When the Village erupted in protest 42 years ago next month, New York – andevery other state in the union, save one – still had laws on the books that made same-sexrelationships a crime. A couple could go to prison for years, just for being intimate in the privacy of their own home. For men and women of that era, an era many of us remember well, being in a gayrelationship meant living in fear:“Fear of police harassment.“Fear of public humiliation“Fear of workplace discrimination.“Fear of physical violence.“Today, in some places, those fears still linger. But as a nation, we have come a long waysince Stonewall. Today, two women in a committed relationship – who years ago would havehidden their relationship from family and friends – will instead take part in a wedding ceremony infront of their family and friends. Today, two men who are long-time partners – who years agowould never even have entertained the idea – will adopt a child and begin a family.“Both events are possible because thousands of courageous individuals risked everything tocome out and speak out. And because they did – because they organized and protested, because they poured their hearts out to friends and family and neighbors, because they stood up for their rightsand marched for equality and ran for office – laws banning same-sex relationships have been struck down by the Supreme Court. More than 20 states have adopted laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. And beginning this year, patriotic men and women will be able to enlistin the U.S. military without having to hide their identity.“We owe all of those pioneers a deep debt of gratitude. And although the work is far fromover, there is no doubt that we have passed the tipping point.“Today, a majority of Americans support marriage equality – and young people increasinglyview marriage equality in much the same way as young people in the 1960s viewed civil rights.Eventually, as happened with civil rights for African-Americans, they will be a majority of voters.And they will pass laws that reflect their values and elect presidents who personify them.“It is not a matter of if – but when.2
“And the question for every New York State lawmaker is: Do you want to be rememberedas a leader on civil rights? Or an obstructionist? On matters of freedom and equality, history has notremembered 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.“So the question really is: So, why now? Because this is our time to stand up for equality.This is our time to conquer the next frontier of freedom. This is our time to be as bold and brave asthe pioneers who came before us. And this is our time to lead the American journey forward.“It’s fitting that the gay rights movement began in our City, because New Yorkers havealways been at the forefront of movements to expand American freedoms – and guaranteeAmerican liberties. Long before our founding fathers wisely decided to separate church from state,leading citizens of our City petitioned their colonial rulers for religious freedom. Long beforeLincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, many New Yorkers – including the founder of thiscollege, Peter Cooper – crusaded against slavery. Long before the nation adopted the 19thAmendment, New Yorkers helped lead the movement for women’s suffrage. And long before theCivil Rights Act of 1964, New Yorkers played a pivotal role in advancing a color-blind society.“So why should New York now lead on marriage equality? Because we have always led thecharge for freedom – and we have always led by example. No place in the world is more committedto freedom of expression – religious, artistic, political, social, personal – than New York City. Andno place in the world is more welcoming of all people, no matter what their ethnicity or orientation.“That has always been what sets us apart. In our city, there is no shame in being true toyourself. There is only pride. We take you as you are – and we let you be who you wish to be. Thatis the essence of New York City!“That is what makes us a safe haven for people of every background and orientation… and amagnet for talented and creative people. It’s the reason why we are the economic engine for thecountry and the greatest city in the world.“But it’s up to us to keep it that way. As other states recognize the rights of same-sexcouples to marry, we cannot stand by and watch. To do so would be to betray our civic values andhistory – and it would harm our competitive edge in the global economy. This is an issue of democratic principles – but make no mistake, it carries economic consequences.“We are the freest city in the freest country in the world – but freedom is not frozen in time.And if we are to remain the freest city, with the most dynamic and innovative economy, we mustlead on this issue – just as we have on so many other matters of fundamental civil rights.3

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