San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom lambasted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday for deciding to appeal a court ruling that would allow same-sex marriage in the Big Apple.
Newsom called Bloomberg's decision inconsistent, suggested it was politically motivated and said it reinforced cynicism among the American people.
"People don't like politicians, and now I know why," he said.
Bloomberg, who has said he personally favors same-sex marriage, announced over the weekend that he would challenge the ruling of a judge in Manhattan earlier this month that gay couples have the right to marry under the state's Constitution. Bloomberg has said he believes New York state law forbids the practice.
Newsom said he did not want to pick a fight with the mayor of the nation's largest city, but he said he was stunned by Bloomberg's decision to appeal.
"I think if you believe something, you've got to act on it,'' the San Francisco mayor said. "If you don't believe in it, don't act on it. But don't say you believe something and then do everything to stifle that belief."
Newsom made his remarks after being pressed by reporters on the issue at a San Francisco press conference about his new anti-litter initiative.
Bloomberg's office did not respond to requests for comment on Newsom's comments.
A legal brief submitted to the court by New York City discussed the tradition of marriage going back to the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Newsom said denying blacks citizenship and the right to vote were traditions in the United States at one time.
"Well, if you want to talk about tradition being codified in this country, tradition was codified in the (1857) Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to deny blacks citizenship," Newsom said. "That was tradition. It was wrong. ...
"So when Mayor Bloomberg or others say it's tradition -- marriage between a man and a woman -- I harken back to those days where the tradition was challenged because it was the right thing to do, and I wish that the mayor (of New York City) would challenge the tradition of bigotry as it relates to same-sex marriages. I think that would be courageous."
Newsom said he was motivated to speak out by statements from a Bloomberg spokesman in the New York Times on Wednesday that it was the mayor's responsibility to see that the law was followed instead of "grandstanding and possibly causing real pain by allowing marriage licenses to be issued that later could be nullified."
"He talked about, almost referred to the chaos in San Francisco," Newsom said. "That's what Gov. Schwarzenegger said. Where was the chaos in this city? It's just wrong to say that." Newsom added that hundreds of same-sex couples scheduled to attend a Saturday event at City Hall commemorating their marriages were not "gravely disappointed" by the nullification and were continuing to fight.
Newsom drew both international criticism and praise a year ago when he instructed the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Nearly 4,000 couples were married, but the California Supreme Court nullified those marriages six months later.
The city, along with several couples, sued the state in an attempt to overturn that decision and argued their case in Superior Court in late December. A decision from that court is expected any day.
Additionally, some have argued that Newsom's actions, combined with legal same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, motivated social conservatives to turn out in force for the November election. Voters in 11 states passed amendments to their state constitutions banning same-sex marriage.
Newsom said he believed that in the same-sex marriage issue, politicians should act out of conviction, not concern for their careers.
"We need more champions," he said. "We can't do it alone out here. If you believe in something, act on it, even if your political career ends. At least you can look back and say, 'I tried. "
Bloomberg, a moderate Republican, is running for re-election in November in liberal New York, but he must first survive the GOP primary, which is likely to bring out more conservative voters.
Chronicle staff writer Rachel Gordon contributed to this report.
© 2005 San Francisco Chronicle