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Ferrer backs gay marriage during Jackson Hgts. stump

In the wake of a landmark court ruling that declared laws banning same-sex marriage in the city to be unconstitutional, Ferrer told the group of 20 or so people at St. Mark's Church that he believed wedding vows between couples of the same sex did nothing to undermine traditional marriages. "It won't weaken anybody else's marriage, and by the way, if their marriage is weak, that's their problem," said Ferrer, the former Bronx Borough president and longtime city councilman. Seemingly at ease with the crowd, Ferrer munched on chocolate-chip cookies and spoke in tones reminiscent of his native South Bronx as he criticized Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg's nuanced pledge to seek a speedy appeal of the court ruling in an effort to get a definitive answer on the issue. But Ferrer avoided some of the more charged rhetoric employed by fellow Democratic candidate City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan), who a day earlier called Bloomberg's decision to appeal the ruling despite his own personal beliefs "cowardly." "What's more important is understanding that we need to be fighting on the right side of history," said Ferrer, who drew comparisons between the gay marriage debate and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ferrer, who was knocked out of the mayor's race by Mark Green in a 2001 Democratic runoff, was reluctant to draw a clear distinction between himself and the other Democratic candidates, saying only that he would run based on his record and "positive vision for New York." Some present expressed concern that this year's primary could prove too divisive, ultimately damaging the Democrats' chance of capturing City Hall. Speaking to a largely sympathetic audience, Ferrer said he opposed the mayor's push for the construction of a West Side stadium for the New York Jets - the centerpiece of New York's 2012 Olympic bid. "God bless professional sports, but they can pay for the own stadium," Ferrer said of the West Side project. The stadium would require $600 million in city funding. The proposal also includes plans to extend the No. 7 subway line to the vicinity of the Javits Center on the far West Side, by-passing a logical link to Penn Station in favor of creating what he said would be an "Olympics Express" between Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the new stadium. Ferrer said he was on the fence about the Olympics in general. "I love javelin throwing, but I don't think that a city with the enormous needs we have should be obsessed about this," he said, adding that more attention needed to be focused on services such as health care and housing for the city's middle and lower classes. "Hope and opportunity met me halfway on Fox Street when I was growing up," said Ferrer, who reprised his 2001 campaign theme of "two New Yorks." "I just have the fundamental belief that in this city, hope and opportunity have to meet everybody halfway." Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club President Bruce Friedman said he thought Ferrer's appearance went over well with members. "I think he was very well received," Friedman said. "I think that some people who were wondering about him might take a closer look." Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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