A: [...] And, candidly, as you know, I have maintained my Tennessee residence for the first year I was here. I taught in Vanderbilt University. I spent my time at Merrill Lynch here. I had an office in Nashville. One of the articles noted, I continued to vote in Tennessee. I even gave some thought to pursuing the governor’s race in Tennessee. The race was I think this year. I decided against that in ’08, that I would not do that.
A: I was living here with my wife — we were not married yet. But shortly after the race in November, I moved here. This is the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We had got engaged. We dated. I wanted to be with her. And so I moved here. And moved is such a legal term. I was not a resident here yet until just last year, because I did not spend the requisite number of days here — being that the majority of time I still spent commuting between here and Nashville, and spending time in Tennessee.
This race has become even more interesting, because as I learn and become more integrated into the city, and appreciate the kind of elected representation that New York and New York State has enjoyed, the kind of independent-minded senators and, for that matter, mayor, and governor and other positions over the years that you have had here — I should say the kinds of people who have held office here.So I thought more and more about the issues and become more and more integrated into the city, into philanthropic life — not in a big way, but some of the organizations I have contributed to and are now a part of — be it the Prep for Prep program, the Council on Foreign Relations.
My wife — she lived here for five years. New York has, in many ways, become home.
And, again, you combine the central issues confronting the country, which confront New York in a more meaningful and tangible way, arguably, than other cities and locals around the country.
I often have said to people that there are really two cities in the country where the outlook is always forward-looking — there is never really a backward-looking tendency. My banking work has taken me out to Palo Alto, what is commonly called Silicon Valley. And you sense out there is always a forward-looking outlook. And New York City. There is a desire to allow people to become a part of something that is so great and so big.
Q. Have you been to Staten Island?
A. I landed there in the helicopter, so I can say yes.
Q. Let’s talk about gay marriage. You know your record very well, but to quickly remind you, you voted to ban same sex marriage, with the Federal Marriage Amendment, twice.
A. I can say up until 2003, most organizations and national organization that had an office in Washington dedicated to fighting for equality for Americans, I enjoyed broad support and big support from them. The marriage votes drove my ratings down considerably, and arguably rightly so. I have been a supporter of civil unions. My opponent raised the issue on the campaign trail in Tennessee.
As the presidential race unfolded, one of the things I recognized during the campaign: My position on same-sex marriage resembles President Obama’s over the years. Frankly, up until maybe a year ago, that of the senior senator in the state, Senator Schumer, who was opposed to same-sex marriage.
Q. Where are you now?
A. I am for gay marriage. Or same-sex marriage. I don’t want to say it the wrong way. I think people are sensitive to it. I have been painted as being this right-wing zealot on choice. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think there are legitimate questions around my support for —
Q. Let’s focus on your two votes to ban same-sex marriage. Can you explain that? Walk me through that.
A. The last three years, think about what has transpired. How many states have either courts and or legislatures that have declared same-sex marriage is acceptable in their states? There has been a robust debate.
I don’t think it’s a great leap to go from civil unions to gay marriage — I may be in the minority in believing that. But I don’t think there is. Long before I arrived in New York, my commitment to issues of fairness and equality are clear and obvious and unmistakable. And in light of that, and consistent with that, according the same rights that a couple were married, versus the rights provided by civil unions, I don’t believe the difference is that great. I understand that in certain communities it’s not viewed on equal footing. But my change, or my maturation to that point....
Q. What changed for you?
A. Understand, I did not start at zero and get to 10. I started at 8. This is my point: I think some of the press accounts of my record have been distorted or just been wrong. People make it sound as if — let’s go back to the votes in the Congress.
Q. Do you regret those votes, then?
A: I have been in politics for 14 years. I was elected back in 1996 ... over the 14 years, have I learned and have I listened? Absolutely. Understand, Michael, I did not go from zero to 10. I was for civil unions and believed strongly that the flow of benefits and protections that would be provided in a civil union for same-sex couples, the decisions that have to be made, when health hardships are faced, when economic hardships are faced, I wanted all of those protections. I never strayed from them. It was just the issue of marriage, that particularly over the last three years, I have come to understand differently.