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Bloomberg Pleads For Tolerance Amid Gay-Bashing, Violence

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Taking on a recent rash of homophobic incidents across the country and, perhaps, inflammatory anti-gay comments from Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered an impassioned plea for tolerance Monday evening.

"Let me be clear," the mayor said in remarks delivered at the 30th annual Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) New York City Awards Dinner, "these incidents are completely unacceptable. They're intolerable in a city in which tolerance is what defines us. They're unacceptable in a city in which embracing our differences is what makes us strong. Because when any New Yorker is attacked because of who they are or who they love, the fabric that binds us together is torn. That's why these attacks are attacks on us all, and why they can never, ever be allowed. Especially when it comes to our kids."

Bloomberg has bolstered his civil-liberties bona fides in recent months. His remarks to PFLAG follow the mayor's strong defense of an Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan.

Delivered just hours after Paladino was forced to explain a speech he gave in which he said children were being "brainwashed" into accepting homosexuality as "valid," Bloomberg's Monday-night remarks also served to illustrate the Republican Party's evolution on gay rights. Of course, Bloomberg is no longer, formally, a Republican.

Further Bloomberg remarks appear below:

"To those who have been the target of bullying and bias, whether you happen to be in this room or in any neighborhood in the city, I say this: this great city stands with you. We believe in you. We want you here. We will do anything in our power to keep you safe. And we will do everything in our power to punish those who dare threaten the well being of our citizens.

"As I said over the weekend, the perpetrators of the abuse and torture in the Bronx will be spared no mercy. At the same time, we will continue -- with the help of PFLAG -- reinforcing in our public schools what is the most comprehensive anti-bullying policy of its kind in the nation. Because building a city of honesty and respect and civility begins with our children.

"This city's greatest strength has always been its diversity and openness. There are moments when that is challenged, when some argue for closing, rather than opening doors -for closing, rather than opening our hearts.

"But I am confident that will never happen, in part because of your energy and advocacy. And clearly, as we note on this night of celebration, that good work is needed now, more than ever before.

"So let me close by saying that our city -- and our nation -- have come a long way, but our journey is not yet complete. I wish for you the same thing I wish for any parent in this city: the joy of seeing your son or daughter fall in love, the joy of walking your son or daughter down the aisle on the most important day of their lives. Government should not be in the business of telling anyone whom he or she can and cannot love. And believe me, I will fight with you every single day to make that a reality. Good night, and God bless."