In this op-ed series published exclusively on Out.com, members of the LGBTQ+ community discuss their support for the major contenders in the 2020 presidential primaries. Participating candidates include Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, and Cory Booker, and one editorial will be published every weekday. The editorials in this series do not reflect the views of Out magazine or its editors.
In today’s installment, gay couple Jonathan Mintz and John Feinblatt tell us why they believe Michael Bloomberg should be the next president of the United States.
Given the pro-LGBTQ+ policy positions of many Democratic candidates running for president today, it may be surprising to remember that very few elected officials in either party supported marriage equality even 10 years ago. Yet in 2005, Mike Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor at the time, publicly announced his support for marriage equality and played a pivotal role in helping to make same-sex marriage legal in New York state in June 2011.
As two people who have worked with and known Mike for 18 years, we have seen how effective a leader he is. Mike’s advocacy for the freedom to marry not only helped advance equality for more than a quarter million couples, but also led to our own wedding — one that he personally helped orchestrate.
John Feinblatt: A personal commitment
“Let’s get a cup of coffee.”
I didn’t have a choice. The person asking — or telling — was my boss, the mayor of New York City, Mike Bloomberg. I stood up from my desk, expecting a routine conversation in the office kitchen.
Just days before, New York had become the sixth state to make marriage equality the law — thanks in no small part to Mike’s vision and persistence. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the historic bill on a Friday night. The following Sunday, when hundreds of thousands marched down Fifth Avenue in the city’s annual LGBTQ+ Pride parade, they not only cheered their hero mayor and governor. They openly wept.
Now Mike had an idea. He didn’t know if Jonathan and I were thinking about marrying. But if we were, he told me, he wanted to officiate.
“If you’d like me to do it, I’d really love to,” Mike said.
Jonathan and I had been talking about it for a while. Our family had a house in Massachusetts, where equality was already the law. But marrying there didn’t feel quite right. We were New Yorkers. And now we could tie the knot at home, finally, just like any other couple.
So, when Mike popped the question, I was ready with the answer. Somewhat begrudgingly, Mike and I agreed that I really ought to ask Jonathan first.
Before we knew it, we had 18 days to plan a wedding.
By that point, for more than a decade, the two of us had a front-row seat to Mike’s leadership. We’d watched up close as he did the job of mayor, day in and day out, with steadfast determination, unflappable ethics, and a limitless passion for innovation.
Both of us joined the Bloomberg administration at the start in 2002. I became Mike’s policy chief, while Jonathan served as his commissioner of consumer affairs. As mayor, Mike had unfailingly backed our work on gun violence prevention, immigration reform, consumer protection, and financial empowerment, just to name a few of the initiatives we’d worked on together.
Across all the years and all our efforts, we found that no issue resonated more personally than Mike’s commitment — and accomplishments — on advancing LGBTQ+ rights.
In 2011, only five states and the District of Columbia had legalized marriage equality, and there were no federal protections in place for same-sex couples. Mike had to travel to the capitol in Albany, with me at his side, and make his case to the holdouts in the state legislature.
Mike didn’t appeal to politics. He appealed to lawmakers’ wavering cores: “What is your spouse telling you at home about this?” He cajoled, “You’re not gonna be able to look in the mirror if you vote ‘no’ on this.” Thinking of his own daughters, he cut right to the heart of the matter. “Holiday dinners are gonna be really awkward if your kids know you were on the wrong side of history.”
Beyond New York, Mike also put up his own money to back successful equality ballot campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington state. He became not just an ally, but a champion for LGBTQ+ Americans. The wave of activity in states and courts advancing marriage equality that Mike supported eventually led to the Supreme Court’s decision that legalized gay marriage in 2015.
Mike knew we would win. “In the long run, civil rights always march forward,” he’d say, time and again. And march we did, down Fifth Avenue, on that glorious Sunday in June.
Jonathan Mintz (left) and John Feinblatt (right) on their wedding day with their daughters and Mike Bloomberg (center) as the officiant.
Jonathan Mintz: The right thing to do
We were married in New York City at historic Gracie Mansion on July 24, 2011, the very first day that marriage equality took effect in the state. Mike got his wish and served as officiant. At that point in his tenure as mayor, he’d only performed two other ceremonies — one for his mayoral predecessor and one for his elder daughter. He handled ours like a pro.
Our brief engagement had been in the news, and so we were surrounded by cameras and journalists on our wedding day. Even amid the bright lights, Mike made sure the whole day was about our family and especially our young daughters. They couldn’t stop smiling. The ceremony itself was simple and traditional. Our famous officiant was gracious and unassuming.
For Mike, equality isn’t a campaign plank or a policy paper. It’s personal, and it’s the right thing to do.
While we have made enormous progress on LGBTQ+ rights, there is still much work to be done. The Trump administration has turned back the clock on many important LGBTQ+ issues, and we need a proven leader who can get us back on track.
Like every fundamental civil right, equality is worth expanding and fighting for. And Mike doesn’t stop until the job is done and the fight is won.
That’s the Mike Bloomberg we know. That’s the kind of president we know he’ll be.
John Feinblatt was the Criminal Justice Coordinator and Chief Policy Advisor for Mike Bloomberg from 2002-2013. Jonathan Mintz is the Founding President and CEO of Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. They have been married since 2011.