There was no epiphany, no defining moment, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi said, when he realized that gay marriage should be legal in New York State.
"It was just something I had been thinking about. I know a lot of gay and lesbian people and it's something that keeps coming up," he said Sunday in explaining why he had changed his position.
When Suozzi ran for governor in 2006, he had favored civil unions and did not endorse marriage for gays and lesbians.
Suozzi outlined his new position in an op-ed article that appeared in The New York Times on Saturday and said in it, of his earlier position, "I was wrong."
"I now support same-sex marriage," he wrote. "This is a subject of great debate before the New York State Legislature (although the legislators there are a little distracted right now), and I hope that same-sex marriage will be approved within the month."
Suozzi wrote, "Any change in the New York law can, and must, balance equality while making sure that religious institutions remain free to choose whether to marry same-sex couples."
A spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, asked for his position Sunday on gay marriage, said: "Steve's position is that he has no problem with gay marriage on the civil side, but he does not believe it should be imposed on religious institutions."
Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said at the county convention in May that he backed the state gay marriage bill, and cited Legis. Jon Cooper (D- Lloyd Harbor) getting married in Old Greenwich, Conn., as evidence that same-sex marriages should be legalized in New York.
Cooper said Sunday that a groundswell of public support for same-sex marriage has influenced some elected officials to change their position and back legislation guaranteeing civil marriage for gay couples.
"If there wasn't a feeling that the water is safe, there's a number of legislators who wouldn't feel comfortable doing what their heart dictates," Cooper said while marching in the Long Island Pride Parade in Huntington with four of his children. "They've got to take that leap."
- With Reid Epstein
and Laura Rivera