Mayors Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Mike
Bloomberg of New York City and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles
are among 80 mayors pledging to support gay marriage.
The group Mayors for the Freedom to
Marry launched Friday with a press conference held at the 80th
annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C.
“If we truly believe in family
values, we should value all families,” said Villaraigosa, president
of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and a co-chair of the new group.
“Denying gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry weakens
society by hurting our communities, neighbors and families. We hope
other mayors will sign the pledge and join Mayors for the Freedom to
Mayors involved will lobby state
lawmakers to approve marriage equality legislation and call on
Congressional representatives to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA), which bars federal agencies from recognizing the legal
marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
Bloomberg, who strongly backed New York
becoming the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, and San Diego
Mayor Jerry Sanders also gave remarks.
“In only a season, the freedom to
marry has already made New York a stronger state,” Bloomberg said.
“This isn't about partisanship or ideology. It's about extending the
freedoms of our country to all people, and ensuring equal protection
under the law. Mayors understand that welcoming committed gay
couples to the rights and responsibilities of marriage isn't just the
right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do for the diverse,
dynamic, forward-looking cities we're all working to build.”
Sanders added: “Marriage encourages
people to take responsibility for each other, provides greater
security for children and helps our country live up to the promises
set forth in our founding documents.”
Sanders, a Republican, provided
emotional testimony during the second week of the trial that found
California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, unconstitutional. He
testified that he once opposed marriage equality. In 2007, he was
prepared to veto a San Diego City Council-approved resolution calling
on the city to file an amicus brief in support of a San Francisco
legal challenge. Instead, with his wife by his side, Sanders held a
tearful press conference and told reporters: “I have close family
members and friends who are members of the gay and lesbian community.
Those folks include my daughter Lisa.”
Also involved in the campaign are
Mayors Annise Parker of Houston and Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma.