NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday that he will spend $500,000 of his personal fortune on campaigns to legalize gay marriage in Maine, Minnesota and Washington state, so as to help the campaigns raise an equal amount.
The announcement followed up on a political spending push that the billionaire mayor unveiled last week. He said then that he planned to spend at least $10 million before Election Day promoting moderate candidates and ballot measures supporting gay marriage.
Bloomberg has pledged a total of $325,000 to groups backing ballot initiatives that would legalize gay marriage in Maine and uphold it in Washington state.
He is giving another $125,000 to a group working against a Minnesota constitutional amendment that would strengthen an existing law against same-sex marriage.
“Marriage equality is the next big step in America’s long march of freedom,” Bloomberg said in a statement Monday.
Bloomberg announced a $250,000 contribution to a Maryland gay marriage initiative earlier this month.
The State of New York legalized gay marriage in July 2011. Officials estimate gay marriage had an economic impact of $259 million on New York City alone during the first year.
Gay marriage is also legal in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa, as well as Washington, D.C.
In Maine, then-Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill legalizing gay marriage in May 2009. But in November of that year, a ballot initiative led the new law to be overturned.
A new voter initiative in support of gay marriage will appear on the Maine ballot in November.
Earlier this year, Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill passed by lawmakers to legalize gay marriage. But due to a push-back by opponents, the law will take effect only if is upheld by a popular vote next month.
And in Minnesota, a proposed amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“Business leaders across the state — and those around the nation, like Mayor Bloomberg –have made it clear that this amendment is bad for business,” Minnesotans United campaign manager Richard Carlbom said. The group says the proposed constitutional amendment would hurt Minnesota’s prospects of attracting talented workers, among other arguments against it.
A spokesman for a group leading the charge to pass the proposal, Minnesota for Marriage, saw Bloomberg’s gift as interloping.
“We believe it is the people of Minnesota who should decide the question of marriage, not out-of-state donors like Bloomberg,” said the spokesman, Chuck Darrell. The organization, which includes religious and socially conservative groups, says the state needs the constitutional language to keep judges or lawmakers from altering the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Lawmakers and advocacy groups in several other states also have been pushing to legalize gay marriage.
In Illinois, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union filed separate lawsuits this past May, claiming that a statutory ban on same-sex marriage violates the constitution. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has also said he was ready to work toward legalizing gay marriage, as the lawsuit remains pending in Cook County Circuit Court.
And in California, an appeals court has ruled against Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that took away same-sex marriage rights five months after they had been granted by the state Supreme Court. The case against Proposition 8, Perry v. Brown, has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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