New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday delivered a speech in support of legalizing gay marriage in New York.

“Should government permit men and women of the same sex to marry?” Bloomberg rhetorically asked a crowd at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

“It is a question that cuts to the core of who we are as a country – and as a city. It is a question that deserves to be answered here in New York – which was the birthplace of the gay rights 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 must lead 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. Catholics in New York could not hold office. Those without property could not vote. Women could not vote or hold office. And homosexuality was, in some places, a crime punishable by death.”

Bloomberg said the prohibition on gay marriage was the “next great barrier standing before our generation.”

“Today, a majority of Americans support marriage equality – and young people increasingly view 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.”

The 69-year-old Republican-turned-independent added that he hopes lawmakers who do not support marriage equality will “listen to their kids and make them proud with their foresight and courage.”

“Together, we can work across the aisle to pass a bill allowing all New Yorkers to walk down the aisle and lead our state and country toward a more perfect union,” he concluded.

Bloomberg is among the high-profile elected officials rounding up support for making New York the sixth state to legalize the union. With openly gay City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at his side, he visited Albany earlier this month to lobby lawmakers on the issue.

His speech follows a video released by Governor Andrew Cuomo in support of the proposed legislation.