Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gay Marriage Mayor Not Seeking Re-election; Denounces Democrats :: EDGE Boston

Gay Marriage Mayor Not Seeking Re-election; Denounces Democrats :: EDGE Boston

by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Contributor
Wednesday Jan 14, 2009

The mayor of Nyack, NY, who issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, has announced that he will not be seeking re-election.

Nyack mayor John Shields, 65, was the second mayor of a New York town to issue licenses to same-sex families during a brief span in 2004.

The first mayor of a New York municipality to do so, Jason West, of New Paltz, issued 19 marriage licenses, and later faced charges for doing so.

Now, according to a Jan. 14 article in The Journal News Shields, who sought his own marriage license with then-partner Bob Streams, has not only decided to step down from his office, but to leave the Democratic party as well.

The article quoted Shields as saying, "I think four terms are enough as mayor and three terms as trustee."

Added Shields, "I’m looking forward to new leadership and new ideas and new blood."

Shields will remain in office throughout 2009, but had wanted to let his decision be known in plenty of time to give others interested in a run for the mayorship time to get ready for the election.

But Shields is not retiring from political life altogether: having come to national attention as a member of the "Nyack 10" (five couples who sought licenses to marry from the Town Hall of Orangetown, NY), Shields is going to continue working for marriage equality for all American families.

But he won’t be doing so as a member of the Democratic party. Said Shields, who plans to leave the party when he leaves office, "I don’t think either party is serving the LGBT community."

Shields was one of the first openly gay men to be elected to a mayorship in New York. Said the Nyack mayor, "I didn’t run for that reason; there were other issues in the village of Nyack. But it was important for me to be open and truthful about it because I think the more people who are out and open, the less threatening it becomes to everybody else."

A article from Mar. 3, 2004, which is now archived at, reported on Shields’ issuance of marriage licenses for same-sex families.

The article cited Shields as saying that his gesture was carried out in the spirit of upholding civil rights constitutionally guaranteed to all New York state residents.

Shields was quoted in that article as saying, "I don’t understand how extending marriage to same-gender couples undermines traditional marriage or weakens community.

"On the contrary, I believe personal commitments strengthen community."

Added Shields, "A powerful way to affirm traditional marriage is to have strong marriages between committed people."

Since then, times have changed for New York families--a little, anyway; an executive order from the office of Gov. David Paterson instructed all state bureaus to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other jurisdictions, even though New York state law does not extend marriage equality to gay and lesbian families.

The New York State Assembly passed a bill that would rectify that omission, but under Republican leadership, the Senate did not see the bill brought to a vote.

The new Democratic Senate leadership has indicated that the bill will not see a vote any time soon.

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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