Former Gov. David Paterson claimed tonight that backing same-sex marriage cost him the support of African-Americans.
Mr. Paterson, New York’s first and only black governor, spoke at a Borough Park, Brooklyn forum about his decision to endorse same-sex marriage, telling an audience of more socially conservative Orthodox Jews that he needed to take into account the views of faith leaders who believed marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
“My popularity in the black community, when I became governor, was 91 percent and by the beginning of 2009 my popularity in the black community had dropped to 54 percent because there has been a resistance to marriage equality such as there might be right here,” Mr. Paterson, a Democrat, said at a forum hosted by JP Updates, a Jewish news website.
Though same-sex marriage wasn’t legalized in New York State until 2011, a year after Mr. Paterson left office, he said he chose to recognize marriages in the few states where it was legal at the time. Just last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, vindicating socially liberal politicians like Mr. Paterson.
When he was governor, he said he met with black clergy leaders to explain that their religious beliefs would not be under assault if gay marriage eventually became legal.
“They said, ‘But our concern is whether or not we can practice our religion and whether or not we will be in danger,'” he said. “The majority of people, not matter what the issue is, have a point of view and someone is now seen as either not in the majority or not what’s in vogue right now.”
“There is an ostracization and … a sense of degrading of people and a feeling that they are, as was just said, homophobic or have some kind of hatred when they’re really just practicing the tenets of their religion,” he added. “So I made a point in advocating for same-sex marriage after those meetings, of pointing out, should the law ever change, we don’t want to replace a set of oppressed people with a new set of oppressed people because that’s not what America is supposed to be about.”
Mr. Paterson, now the chairman of the State Democratic Party, said anxiety “justifiably” felt by Orthodox Jews would eventually dissipate.
“If we just say it’s great that we have same-sex marriage and anybody who even voices an opinion in the opposite is shouted down … then we’ve learned nothing,” he asserted. “We’ve learned nothing in that process.”