The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest gay rights advocate, will directly campaign against
New York state senators opposed to the legalization of gay marriage.
The Campaign for New York Marriage will
be headed by Brian Ellner, a former aide of New York Mayor Michael
Bloomberg, the group announced Friday.
Ellner told the New York Times
that he views his position as “an opportunity to build on solid
work that has come before.”
Ellner, who was considered the top
candidate to head New York-based gay rights group the Empire State
Pride Agenda, was pressured to withdraw his name from consideration
after some gay advocates questioned his links to Mayor Bloomberg, a
supporter of gay marriage but also a major donor to the Republican
HRC has previously limited itself to
endorsing federal-level candidates in the state, including
campaigning for the reelection of New York Senators Kirsten
Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, Democrats who support gay rights, and
yielded to local groups on the issue of gay marriage.
But HRC president Joe Solmonese said
New York was “at a critical tipping point in securing marriage
equality and November's elections hold the key.”
“Make no mistake,” he warned, “
if you oppose marriage equality, we are coming to get you.”
Possible targets on the group's list
most likely include state Senate Democrats who crossed the aisle to
join all Republicans in defeating a gay marriage bill last December,
including Senators Ruben Diaz Jr., the face of opposition to gay
marriage in the Legislature, Joseph Addabbo and William Stachowski.
HRC's entry into the marriage debate in
New York might threaten donor rolls at existing New York marriage
equality groups the Empire State Pride Agenda and Fight Back New York.
Especially vulnerable is the Empire State Pride Agenda, whose former
executive director Alan Van Capelle was fond of quoting Senator Tom
Duane, who is openly gay/HIV-positive, saying he had the votes needed
in the Senate to approve the gay marriage bill. Duane expressed
anger and disappointment when eight senators voted against the
measure, and claimed he had been deceived.
The group has already drawn praise from
local gay leaders, including Duane, who called the news “terrific”
and openly gay City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, who praised
Ellner as “a great addition to the HRC team.”