WASHINGTON — Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, today launched Mayors for the Freedom to Marry at a news conference held during the 80th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting.
Mayors for the Freedom to Marry is a bipartisan group of 80 mayors who have pledged to support the freedom of same-sex couples to marry.
“If we truly believe in family values, we should value all families,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Mayors for the Freedom to Marry chair and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“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 Marry,” said Villaraigosa, who is a Democrat.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders is also one of the group’s chairs, and spoke Thursday to San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about his role.
Sanders, a Republican, became a powerful advocate for marriage when he announced in 2007 that he would sign a San Diego City Ccouncil resolution in support of the freedom to marry. He tells his personal story of how his views evolved.
“Allowing loving and committed couples to join in marriage has benefits not just for couples and their families — but also for society. 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. These are important values for a strong society, and we should encourage them,” Sanders said.
The group includes mayors from cities and towns — large and small — with diverse geographic, ethnic and political backgrounds. The list includes the mayors of America’s four largest cities — Michael Bloomberg of New York, Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Annise Parker of Houston. It also includes mayors from cities including Juneau, Alaska; Des Moines, Iowa; and Bloomington, Indiana. View the full list of signers HERE.
Mayors for the Freedom to Marry is part of Freedom to Marry’s federal campaign to expand public support for ending marriage discrimination. Mayors who sign on will employ tailored strategies for making the case for the freedom to marry in their communities.
Many mayors who represent cities in states where marriage is not yet a reality will advocate to pass laws to secure the freedom to marry. Others will make the case to their congressional representatives to end federal marriage discrimination by repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). All are making a statement as to why marriage matters in their communities, how it improves the quality of life for their constituents, and how it makes their communities economically stronger.
“A majority of Americans now support the freedom to marry for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples, according to multiple reputable national polls,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry. “Many Americans who for decades opposed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples are rethinking their position, and hearts and minds are changing. We are proud – and thankful – for the leadership these mayors from across the country are showing in support of this cause.”
New York City Mayor Bloomberg, an Independent who is also a chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, discussed the positive impact allowing couples the freedom to marry has made in New York.
“In only a season, the freedom to marry has already made New York a stronger state. 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,” Bloomberg said.
“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.”
Another chair, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is a lesbian and a Democrat, highlighted the important role of community leaders working together.
"Everyone here believes in the vital importance of marriage to our constituents, to our communities, and to our country. Together, we will work to ensure that our cities have what they need to thrive – and in order to keep our cities competitive in business and welcoming in culture, we will work hard to win the freedom to marry everywhere and end federal marriage discrimination once and for all," Parker said.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino — former President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and a chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry — said that extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples has been a benefit to his city’s economy.
“Cities that cultivate diversity are places where creativity and innovation thrive,” said Menino, who is a Democrat. “We’ve now had the freedom to marry in Boston for almost eight years. Since then we’ve seen more same-sex couples move to the city, and with that economic development, urban revitalization, and a spirit of pride and progress that are hallmarks of Boston.”
Tom Cochran, U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO and executive director, also gave remarks.
"Building on our long track record on civil rights, the U.S Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution in 1984 calling for the legal protection of gay and lesbian rights at all levels of government and one in 2009 calling for marriage equality for same-sex couples,” Cochran said. “Our support is unwavering."
Mayors who participated in the launch included Laura Friedman of Glendale, Calif.; Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Conn.; Pedro Segarra of Hartford, Conn.; Joy Cooper of Hallandale Beach, Fla.; Elizabeth Tisdahlof Evanston, Ill.; Jeff Slavin of Somerset, Md.; Setti Warren of Newton, Mass.; Paul Soglin of Madison, Wisc.; John Callahan of Bethlehem, Pa.; Sam Adams of Portland, Ore., and Craig Cates of Key West, Fla.