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Gays in Astoria call Bloomberg ‘liar’

While Bloomberg said he personally supported the ceremonies and might later seek legislation making them legal, his stance drew shouts of "liar" and chants of "let us marry" from some of those attending the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee's winter dinner dance at the Astoria World Manor. "Ever since he got into office he's been flip-flopping on gay marriage," said Jon Winkleman, a 37-year-old waiter from Sunnyside and a member of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City. "He's promised us a lot of things. He's delivered nothing." Bloomberg, who is seeking re-election to a second term, was scheduled to speak at the event well before a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled Friday that a state law effectively defining marriage as between a man and a woman violated the rights to equal protection and due process enshrined in the New York constitution. The case was brought by five couples through the Lambda Legal organization and unsuccessfully argued against by lawyers for the city. But Judge Doris Ling-Cohan ordered that her decision would not take effect for 30 days, a period during which the city could appeal. It officially did so Tuesday. Ling-Cohan's ruling applies only to the city, it could have bearing on other lawsuits in counties around the state, and the ultimate outcome of the case could influence the battles over same-sex marriage in other states. It is expected the lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal will be heard by the state's highest judicial body, the Court of Appeals, which is composed of four appointees of Republican Gov. George Pataki and three from former Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo. Bloomberg said he would ask the court system to expedite the appeal. While a supporter of same-sex marriage, he said a court ruling that only applied to the city would lead to uncertainty and he instead wants a definitive answer for the whole state. The mayor also said allowing gay marriage only in the city would cause a flood of same-sex couples to come for the ceremonies, leading to chaos. If the Court of Appeals does not pave the way for same-sex marriages, Bloomberg said he would approach the state Legislature. "If the court rules against us, I promise you that I will work with you to change the law," he said, adding that he opposed any future move to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. Bloomberg's response to Friday's ruling is likely to be used against him by Thomas Ognibene, who will challenge the mayor in the Republican primary by claiming he is the more conservative candidate. Ognibene, a former councilman from Middle Village who has accused the Bloomberg campaign of trying to buy off his run, has already said he opposes same-sex marriages. "It's a little bit of a tightrope for the mayor until the primary," state Sen. John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights) said at the Astoria dinner. But Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler said "we don't worry about Tom Ognibene." The mayor's approach was described by some as opportunistic and overly legalistic. "We cannot allow the political calculations of our leaders to trump the civil rights we are all entitled to," said U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Rockaway), also a mayoral contender. If the Court of Appeals rules in favor of same-sex marriages, opponents could seek a state constitutional amendment banning them. If it rules against the marriages, Bloomberg said he would support legislation to explicitly allow them, a move sure to run into resistance from state Senate Republicans. Such legislation has already been introduced in the state Assembly by Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) and Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood), among other sponsors, but it has languished in committee since last year. Peralta, an honoree at Saturday's dinner, said his fellow Queens Democrats and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) did not support the bill because of religious reasons. He said a Court of Appeals ruling upholding same-sex marriage could force the bill to a vote, however. "It's going to send shock waves through the Assembly chambers," Peralta predicted. Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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