Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Unlike other Democratic mayors, Buckhorn won't sign same-sex marriage pledge

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 8:21 AM

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Last week, Chicago's Rahm Emanuel became the latest mayor to join his colleagues from across the U.S. in supporting the rights of same-sex couples to marry.

According to the Freedom to Marry website, more than 80 mayors of major U.S. cities have now pledged to support same-sex marriage. According to the website, the mayors hope to expand public and political support for ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.

"I've always been a supporter of equality as it relates to marriage for the gay and lesbian community, and the reason is, we all take it basically as a given," Mayor Emanuel said, listing the health and retirement benefits that heterosexual married couples share with their partners.

Other notable mayors who have signed on include New York's Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles' Antonio Villaragosa and Boston's Thomas Menino.

One notable omission? Tampa's Bob Buckhorn.

When asked by CL about signing up with the group, Buckhorn reiterated the response he gave us last month when asked about joining Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns group.

"I tend to stay away from the larger coalitions," the mayor said on Monday. "I don’t think they’re particularly effective." Saying he was elected to run a city and not get involved in social issues, Buckhorn reminded CL of his refusal to sign on with the gun group.

Nadine Smith is executive director of the LGBT rights group Equality Florida, which did not make an endorsement in last year's race between Buckhorn and Rose Ferlta. She expressed disappointment upon hearing that the mayor would not commit to signing the pledge. "There are moments when elected leaders are called upon to show moral courage and step out and actually lead, " she said, adding that Floridians can take pride in the five Florida mayors who have signed on to the group and are "standing up for the principles of equality and fairness for gay families."

Those five Florida mayors are from Gainesville, Key West, Hallandale Beach, West Palm Beach and Miramar.

Smith says she believes more Sunshine State mayors will join that list soon, and says that "the reality is that the public is already way ahead of the political leaders on this issue."

In 2008, Florida voters approved Proposition 2, which effectively banned same-sex marriage in the state, by a 62 to 38 percent margin. However, marriage equality seems to be gaining popularity year by year, and a Public Policy Polling survey conducted last October showed that a combined 69 percent in Florida support either same-sex marriage or civil unions.

As an inveterate political observer, Mayor Buckhorn is clearly aware that the topic has grown as a civil rights issue for gays over the past eight years. "Obviously it's sweeping the country. States are dealing with it differently." But he says he's not willing to make that commitment.

"It's not a local issue. I tend not to opine over things that I have no control over."

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in six states plus Washington, D.C., and it may come up for a vote in six more. And NPR reports that legal challenges are pushing the issue closer to an opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Equality Florida's Smith says that gay marriage is coming, and history won't look fondly upon those who didn't act when they could.

"The time will come when those who oppose equal rights under the law will be seen as villains in our history books, and those who stood by in silence will feel shame for not having the courage to take a stand when it mattered most."

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