During his first week as a candidate for the state Senate, Ulrich, a Queens Republican, repeatedly criticized his opponent, Democratic State Sen. Joe Addabbo, flip-flopping on the issue of gay marriage.
In 2009, Addabbo voted against the bill as it went down in lopsided defeat, but in 2011, the Queens senator – after polling constituents in his eastern Queens district on the issue – voted in favor, providing crucial support that allowed the bill to narrowly become New York law.
“First he voted against it, saying most of his constituents were against it, and then for it, saying most of his constituents now favored it,” Ulrich told the Queens Chronicle last week. “I think people are frustrated by that. Joe’s got people upset with him on both sides of the issue.”
But Ulrich’s own record on gay marriage is just as complicated, which could undercut what what so far has been his main argument for unseating the incumbent Democrat.
Ulrich, a 27-year rising Republican star who was heavily courted to run for the Senate, grew up going to Catholic schools and considered going into the priesthood before coming a politician. He has often stated his opposition to same-sex marriage. For instance, two years before he was elected to the City Council, Ulrich wrote in a 2007 op-ed that stating then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s push on the issue was an “assault on the institution of marriage.”
But when a bill explicitly promoting gay marriage came before the City Council in 2010, Ulrich voted in favor The law, passed a year before gay marriage was legalized here, encouraged gay New Yorkers to go to other states, where same-sex marriage was legal, and get hitched there.
It did so by requiring New York City Clerk, which issues marriages licenses, to post “a list of all domestic and international jurisdictions that perform same sex marriages” on its website. The clerk’s site also must say, because of that law, that those who get married outside New York would enjoy the “benefits available to people lawfully married in New York,” further encouraging gay and lesbian couples to get married in other states.
A January New York Times article also suggests that Ulrich’s views on social issues have softened . He told the paper in an interview, highlighting his work for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, that he’s “not so off the reservation on social issues.” The article also suggests in passing that Ulrich’s pro-life views on abortion had flipped since he joined the City Council.
In a statement, Bill O’Reilly, a spokesman for Ulrich’s campaign, said the Ulrich’s vote in the City Council on gay marriage was simply in support of a “freedom on information issue,” and that he will was still pro-life.
“Councilman Ulrich is pro-life and would have voted against the same-sex marriage bill in Albany,” O’Reilly said. “The resolution in the City Council was a freedom of information issue with which he had no problem. One can support traditional marriage and provide gay couples with legal information at the same time.”
A key player in the Senate race also believes that Ulrich has maintained his socially conservative views. In an interview, Tom Long, the chairman of the Queens Conservative Party, said that Ulrich’s vote in the City Council, “may not be good, but it’s not the same as being a ‘no’ vote one year, and a ‘yes’ vote the next,” referring to Addabbo’s vote flip on gay marriage.
Long, the brother of Conservative Party chairman Mike Long, said Ulrich was likely to land the party’s key ballot line, since Long still sees Ulrich as a social conservative.
“I do believe that Eric Ulrich is much more conservative than Joe Addabbo,” said Long, who is also a resident of the contested Senate district. “I talked to him a few weeks ago, and he says, ‘I am and for protecting life, and protecting marriage. And my positions have not changed.’”
But predictably, the executive director of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which his backing Addabbo’s campaign, did not agree. The executive director, Josh Cherwin, called Ulrich’s criticisms of Addabbo “hypocritical.”
“While Eric Ulrich distracts people with hypocritical claims about already-settled issues, Joe Addabbo will continue fighting for job creation and a better education system for the people of Queens,” Cherwin said.
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