Weprin Faces Backlash in Orthodox Community

August 18, 2011 at 11:00 am

The first New York politician imperiled by voting for same-sex marriage isn’t an upstate Republican senator – it’s a Democratic Assemblyman from New York City scrambling to hold his support in a special election.

Assemblyman David Weprin, vying for Anthony Weiner’s congressional seat in a special election this September, may lose supporters among the Orthodox Jewish community due to his support of same-sex marriage. Photo courtesy of City Hall News.

Insiders say Assemblyman David Weprin, running in the special election for Anthony Weiner’s congressional seat, is facing a revolt among Orthodox Jews – though he himself is an Orthodox Jew – because he strongly defended same-sex marriage during an Albany debate.

In his June 15 speech, Weprin said his own Orthodox rabbi would not marry a Jew and a non-Jew, which he felt was wrong — and that gay marriage was no different.

“My religion is very important to me personally, but this is not a religious issue,” Weprin said. “I think everyone here would agree that we should not be outlawing marriages between Jews and non-Jews or interracial marriages.”

With most of the attention at the time focused on the vote counting in the state Senate, Weprin’s comment garnered little notice in the wider world. But his rhetoric has since gained wide attention by many in the Orthodox Jewish community, and videos of his speech have rocketed across their websites.

Democratic and Republican insiders say that speech, more than former Mayor Ed Koch’s efforts to tie Weprin to President Barack Obama on Israel, has put the Orthodox vote in play — providing a huge boon to his Irish Catholic Republican opponent, Bob Turner.

It was not so much the vote itself, but the way Weprin argued in favor of the bill by tying it to his faith, neighborhood political observers say, noting Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also voted for the bill but was far less vocal.

And though the Orthodox population in Kew Gardens and especially in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush does not make up an overwhelming part of the district, the community is full of committed voters who could well make a difference in a low turnout special election.

“What he said in the Assembly has been played over-and-over on YouTube,” said one well-connected neutral observer of the race. “People were really offended that he said he was an Orthodox who was supporting gay marriage.”

During the campaign, some rabbis have refused to meet with Weprin, while the newspaper Hamodia reported that others have refused to be photographed with the assemblyman. Editorial writers for Jewish newspapers and well-read blogs have blasted him.

Read the full post at City Hall News.

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