Ed Koch Says It’s Unacceptable to Ask if He’s Gay

The NYT profiled former mayor Ed Koch over the weekend, and Koch told the paper that it's unacceptable for them to ask him, or political candidates, whether or not they are gay, though he seems to have dropped his anger at former NY governor Mario Cuomo, who first raised the issue of Koch's sexuality during a campaign against him for mayor:

"Mr. Koch’s anger was originally triggered by placards that sprouted in the 1977 mayoral campaign that said 'Vote for Cuomo, not the homo.' The Koch camp blamed Cuomo operatives. Mr. Cuomo has always disclaimed any responsibility. 'If anything, I thought it was done by someone who wanted to see me lose,' Mr. Cuomo recalled last week. 'I never did anything like that and it was a wrong thing to do, whoever did it; it was ugly and unfair. If he believed I did it and forgave me for it, that was kind of him. I always liked him and respected him however he felt about me.'

In December, Mr. Cuomo invited himself to a birthday party for the mayor at Gracie Mansion and offered a gracious tribute. Mr. Koch was moved. He recalled: 'Mario always told people, ‘I like Ed a lot more than he likes me.’ The first time he said that, I replied, ‘You’re right, Mario.’ But that’s over with. He said he was sorry.'

(For the record, Mr. Koch, a lifelong bachelor, declines to say whether he is gay. 'I do not want to add to the acceptability of asking every candidate, ‘Are you straight or gay or lesbian?’ and make it a legitimate question, so I don’t submit to that question. I don’t care if people think I’m gay because I don’t answer it. I’m flattered that at 84 people are interested in my sex life — and, it’s quite limited.')"

At the time of the Cuomo allegations, Koch said: "No, I am not a homosexual. If I were a homosexual, I would hope I
would have the courage to say so. What's cruel is that you are forcing
me to say I am not a homosexual. This means you are putting homosexuals
down. I don't want to do that."

Koch Makes His Peace and Dares to Look Ahead [nyt]


  1. Drake says

    I was visiting NYC for the first time (as a high school student) during the Cuomo-Koch primary fight. I recall Cuomo signs all over the place “Vote for Cuomo-a FAMILY MAN”. I heard the adults discussing what this really meant, and suddenly felt depressed about what the future would mean for me. I could not believe that this was happening in sophisticated NYC. Thankfully, the gay rights movement took off and we have seen improvements. This was in the same era in which gays were fired from jobs for being gay, including in the federal government. This did not happen in ancient history, nor in parts of the world which we like to criticize today. This was in America. Gay history is really important if there will ever be true legal equality. Mario Cuomo should do atonement for his past sins and use his influence in Albany to get the gay marriage bill passed.

  2. David D. says

    I have similar memories to Drake. I was in NYC as a teenager at that time, and I remember a protester wearing a sign that said “Don’t be a Koch-Sucker”. I remember it most because an elderly woman was scolding him, saying his sign was shameful and disgusting.

  3. CJ says

    I’m surprised none of the comments are in defense of Koch. Regardless of whether you believe he is homosexual or not, or assuming he is whether you agree with him for not coming out (he is from a severely different political generation), I stand by his statement that accusing him of being homosexual paints a derogatory connotation towards the LGBT community. It is easy to make nasty comments towards someone, however in this time we need more positivity and graceful understand. With regards to Koch, support him.

  4. JohnInManhattan says

    CJ, in addition to being an ignoramus with your silly comment “Regardless of whether you believe he is homosexual or not” (he is, case closed), you need therapy to deal with your self-hatred.

    “I stand by his statement that accusing him of being homosexual…” Accusing? I suggest in-patient treatment. Good luck!

  5. paul c says

    CJ, Koch is the one who is making homosexuality appear to be shameful in some way. You don’t guard/deny/maintain a wall of secrecy around something you are proud of. You do that when you are scared or ashamed.

    Koch may have been born a long time ago, but he is living in the present time just like the rest of us.

    In 2009…in NYC…he would have no reason to hide his true self but for his own irrational cowardice and selfishness.

  6. patrick nyc says

    Koch was also very slow in responding to the AIDS crisis, not wanting to be associated with the ‘Gay Plague’ as it was called then. He was to concerned over fighting with Cardinal O’Conner than in fighting to save lives.

  7. b mac says

    there is something so tired and sad about suggesting “therapy” for “self-hatred” when someone has a differing viewpoint than your own. grow up.

  8. DAVID says

    I agree with JOHNINMANHATTAN’s assessment. It’s self-loathing for a gay person to think being gay is something you’re “accused” of.

  9. Sam says

    But he was being ‘accused’ of something, by the individual put those signs up. He was using that term in response to what was going on. Whether he thinks it’s wrong to be gay is a different issue. He spoke warmly about not wanting to offend homosexuals. And maybe he is gay, and maybe it’s something he struggles with. That’s sad, but attacking him is also sad. It’s his issue.

  10. toferdavid says

    I read the article, which included a photography of his tombstone memorial. This man had the opportunity to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS and he did nothing. He is a poor excuse and should not be celebrated for his inaction.

  11. CJ says

    SAM: Thanks. It’s nice to know that someone read my comment the way it was meant.

    To others, I lol. I am the last person to be deemed “self loathing”. It seems you are reading into my comment, as I simply meant to state that Koch SEEMED to be stating that accusing someone of being gay is wrong as it is not wrong to BE gay…

    Now, as an aside, WHAT THE F&^K is wrong with you people?! I am so tired of the antics displayed by some of you with regard to how you talk to someone. GROW UP and learn some respect. If you disagree with someone, say so. I in no way deserved to be treated less than human for a comment that you all misread. Ask me first, allow me to clarify your misunderstanding before you take out undue aggression. Good God people, enough of this shit already.

  12. CJ says

    Oh an John, I need therapy because I agreed with Koch stating being accused of being gay is wrong because one should not be ashamed of being gay? Wtf is that about? I don’t know shit about Koch, so please put aside any preconceived notions that I may have about Koch, I don’t care if he is closeted or not. As I stated, I was merely agreeing with that ONE statement, nothing to do with Koch.

    You might want to see someone about your anger issues…

  13. says

    Anyone who wants to insult me will always ask me out loud if I’m gay or jewish to put me in my place….lots of jealous bigots also do this you know….

  14. Romeo says

    He is a homosexual. He uses poppers and his penis is 5.5 inches long. He makes you take off your shoes when you enter his condo, but he makes you keep your socks on when you have sex.