Opponents of Gay Marriage Should Not Be Vilified

Question: How did you enact one of the country’s first city ordinances that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation?

Ed Koch: Well, it was interesting. When the City Council had the bill in 1986, there was doubt that it could pass because there were people who said they would not vote for it. And what I did was, I called people in, Democrats and Republicans, and I said, "If you're opponent in the primary or the general, irrespective of whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, uses your vote for the bill against you, I will support you in your primary and in your general election. And I have no doubt that as a result of that assurance on my part, when people were somewhat afraid, in those days it was even more difficult than today, we ultimately got a majority. I think a majority was a majority of four. The then Speaker of the City Council, Peter Vallone, voted against the bill. He had made a commitment to me when he was running for Speaker that even though he might not vote for the bill, I did not ask him to vote for it, he would let it be brought to the floor. And that was in exchange for my support for his candidacy at the time for, in effect, Majority Leader, or Speaker, or whatever they called it then in those days. And it was passed.

Question: What are your thoughts on the New York State Senate’s recent dismissal of the same-sex marriage bill?

Ed Koch: Now, one also has to understand, this is a question of education. You can't necessarily vilify the opponents of the legislation who may be doing it as a matter of their religious conscience. You have to educate them bring them in, talk to them, and also use the power of the ballot to substitute someone who is more favorable to your point of view if they decline to go your way. But, they're not evil simply because they voted, no. Remember, the high point for those that believe in gay marriage, or the right of gay marriage for same sex couples, was seven states, and then two states got off that boat in California by way of a referendum where the people voted to rescind their support for that legislation, and Maine where a court rescinded their ability to have same sex marriages. It's a matter of education; it's a matter of politics in terms of supporting people who have your point of view and opposing people who don't.

They must be educated, says Ed Koch, who was an early champion of anti-discrimination measures in the mid-1980s.

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