I’m proud to say that my mayor, Durham, NC’s Bill Bell, has signed onto “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry Statement,” with fellow North Carolina mayors – Carrboro’s Mark Chilton, Chapel Hill’s Mark Kleinschmidt, and Franklinton’s Elic Senter. They join the mayors of much larger cities, including NY’s Michael Bloomberg, Boston’s Thomas M. Meninom, Houston’s Annise Parker, San Diego’s Jerry Sanders, and L.A.’s Antonio Villaraigosa.

As mayors of great American cities, we proudly stand together in support of the freedom of same-sex couples to marry. We personally know many gay and lesbian people living in our cities who are in committed, loving relationships, who are active participants in the civic life of our communities, and who deserve to be able to marry the person with whom they share their life.

We are proud that at its 2009 annual meeting, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously approved a resolution stating that: “The U.S. Conference of Mayors supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, and the recognition and extension of full equal rights to such unions, including family and medical leave, tax equity, and insurance and retirement benefits, and opposes the enshrinement of discrimination in the federal or state constitutions.”

Our cities derive great strength from their diversity, and gay and lesbian families are a crucial part. Studies have shown what we know through our hands-on experience—that cities that celebrate and cultivate diversity are the places where creativity and ideas thrive. They are the places where today’s entrepreneurs are most likely to choose to build the businesses of tomorrow. Allowing same-sex couples the right to marry enhances our ability to build this kind of environment, which is good for all of us.

We stand for the freedom to marry because it enhances the economic competitiveness of our communities, improves the lives of families that call our cities home, and is simply the right thing to do.  We look forward to working to build an America where all people can share in the love and commitment of marriage with the person with whom they share their life.

You can check to see if your mayor has affirmed marriage equality by going to Freedom To Marry’s web site, where they can sign up themselves, or they can contact Jo Deutsch at jo@freedomtomarry.org / (240) 643-2321. More comments by some of the mayors:

“If we truly believe in family values, we should value all families,” said Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Mayor, Mayors for the Freedom to Marry chair and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Denying gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry weakens society by hurting our communities, neighbors, and families. We hope other mayors will sign the pledge and join Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.”

The group includes mayors from cities and towns—large and small—with diverse geographic, ethnic and political backgrounds.

…Mayors for the Freedom to Marry chair Annise Parker, Mayor of Houston, highlighted the important role of community leaders working together.

“Everyone here believes in the vital importance of marriage to our constituents, to our communities, and to our country.  Together, we will work to ensure that our cities have what they need to thrive – and in order to keep our cities competitive in business and welcoming in culture, we will work hard to win the freedom to marry everywhere and end federal marriage discrimination once and for all.”

Boston Mayor Tom Menino—former President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and a chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry—said that extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples has been a benefit to his city’s economy.
“Cities that cultivate diversity are places where creativity and innovation thrive,” Menino said. “We’ve now had the freedom to marry in Boston for almost eight years. Since then we’ve seen more same-sex couples move to the city, and with that economic development, urban revitalization, and a spirit of pride and progress that are hallmarks of Boston.”

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I was at the Durham City Council meeting on August 17, 2009 – the evening when the council voted unanimously for a resolution supporting civil marriage equality for same-sex couples.

All but one of those who signed up to speak was in favor of the equality resolution. One woman in my row (well-known local homophobe and failed political candidate Victoria Peterson) jumped to her feet to object (about 4:30 in) “Excuse me, I’d like to speak.” Mayor Bell firmly, but politely told her “I’m running the meeting” and said they were ready to move the item and vote. And they did — and there was a standing ovation (4:48).

It was a non-binding but meaningful resolution, particularly now that North Carolina faces a marriage discrimination amendment on the ballot this May. The Bull City welcomes diversity – and shows it in its leadership.