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New York GOP Candidate Says Support For Marriage Equality Cost Him Endorsement

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seacliff-ny.gov
seacliff-ny.gov

WASHINGTON -- Bruce Kennedy seemed to be all set for his run for a New York state Assembly seat. The Nassau County Republican Committee officially endorsed him in May, hoping that the moderate mayor of Sea Cliff could perhaps wrest the seat away from a Democratic incumbent.

All that was left for him to do was get the endorsement of the local Conservative Party, since GOP candidates in New York often run on both ballot lines. Although Republican officials told Kennedy it would just be a formality, he wasn't so sure.

"I was rather apprehensive about it because I heard that the Nassau County Conservative Committee is rather bigoted," Kennedy said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Kennedy supports marriage equality. His brother is gay, and he has many gay and lesbian friends. Since marriage equality is legal in New York, as mayor, Kennedy has officiated at same-sex weddings.

And according to Kennedy, his stance cost him the Conservative Party's endorsement.

"The interview went terribly," he said of his June 3 meeting with the committee.

Kennedy said that when officials asked him where he stood on same-sex marriage, he said that the state's Marriage Equality Act passed in 2011, and it's now the law of the land. The proceedings began to go downhill when someone in the back of the room asked him how many "gay sex marriages" he had performed.

The next day, according to Kennedy, a local GOP official told him everything would be fine if he went back and apologized to the committee for performing same-sex marriages, promised never to do so again and announced opposition to marriage equality.

"I just absolutely refused," he said.

The local Republican Party then backed out of its endorsement of Kennedy because it wanted to stick with the Conservative Committee.

"I adhered to the law. I took an oath of office to uphold the laws, and I am baffled by how following the law makes me an unfit candidate in any party's eyes," said Kennedy, adding, "The whole thing is rather disgusting."

Neither the Nassau GOP nor the Conservative Party returned requests for comment. Nassau Republican Party spokesman Anthony Santino did, however, confirm to Newsday that it wanted a "unified ticket," and it "became known to us that Mayor Kennedy would not receive the Conservative endorsement."

Nassau Conservative Party Chairman Daniel Donovan told the paper that it rejected Kennedy because he "didn't present himself in the right way on issues."

"We're very stiff on issues that have to do with the family and marriage and things like that," he added.

The Conservative Party did endorse Kennedy in 2011 when he was considering running for a county legislator position.

Kennedy has no intention of giving up his run for the state Assembly. He plans to run as a Republican, noting that he still identifies as a member of the party and believes in fiscally conservative policies. He will now face attorney Louis Imbroto -- who ended up getting the backing of the Republican and Conservative parties -- in the September primary.

"I made a commitment that I was going to run for this office, and it had nothing to do with marriage equality because as far as I was concerned, it was a non-issue," Kennedy said. "None of my desires or my hopes or my aspirations for having run for the Assembly have changed. The only thing that has changed is that the Republicans now say I'm unworthy of their ticket. I'm going for it."

Nationwide, Republicans are increasingly supportive of marriage equality, with a majority of young Republicans backing it.

Kennedy argued that support for marriage equality is fundamentally conservative, and the Republican voters he meets with have "absolutely no problem" with his stance.

"I think it's sort of a Republican value," he said. "I don't care what you do in your private life. I hope that you're happy, I hope that you're successful, I hope whatever you choose in life brings out the best. Believing in capitalism. Bringing out the best of the best. … If they happen to be heterosexual, great. If they happen to be homosexual, great. Who cares."

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