NEW YORK - Charges of racism, sexism, and religious discrimination filled the air this afternoon outside the just-completed Cordoba House, the gleaming new $100 million 15 story mosque and Islamic cultural center near the ruins of New York's World Trade Center, following a tense 5-hour standoff prompted by the mosque's refusal to host a wedding between a lesbian African-American woman and her blind white transgendered partner.
Over 200 NYPD officers and multicultural crisis counselors were bused to the site to quell the simmering 17-way tensions between Muslim, Black, LGBT, immigrant, disabled, and lawsuit community activists. The scene was punctuated by outbursts of pushing and shoving, including a brief confused intramural scuffle among members of Reverend Louis Farrakan's Nation of Islam, but the only serious injuries reported was a hernia suffered by a legal aide distributing plaintiff's briefs. The incident resulted in one arrest, a 7-year old girl who was seen operating a lemonade stand without a permit.
According to witnesses, the standoff began at 11 AM EDT when Eleanor Davis, 38, and her partner Mary Markowicz, 43, entered Cordoba House and requested the use of the mosque for a wedding ceremony. They were escorted from the building, but quickly returned with a 9th District Court of Appeals injunction ordering the mosque's Imam to perform the ceremony, citing the US Supreme Court's Kelo and Proposition 8 decisions. They were barred at the door by security guards who countered with their own injunction citing First Amendment religious protections.
Following the incident, Davis, who is African-American, called a press conference on the sidewalk in front of the Cordoba House to complain of racial and gender discrimination. She was eventually shoved from the podium by Abdul Mohammed-Haq, the Mosque's controversial Yemeni Imam who is currently battling a federal deportation case against the ICE, who countered with complaints of profiling discrimination by Davis and Markowicz. Within minutes the streets in front of the center were filled with chanting protesters from the Gay, Muslim, Black and handicapped communities. A disaster was narrowly averted when the Reverend Al Sharpton's limousine rammed a parked EMS ambulance before it could careen through the crowd.
Amid the growing crisis, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a SWAT team of negotiators from the city's Multicultural Affairs Office parachuted to the scene. A brief truce was reached when negotiators pointed out to the Imam Markowicz's status as a pre-op transexual, obviating his religious objections to performing a same-sex marriage. But tensions erupted again after Markowicz - who is legally blind - tried to enter the mosque with a seeing-eye guide dog.
Multicultural Paratroopers eventually persuaded Markowicz to leave his/her dog outside the mosque during the ceremony. Cordoba House officials reluctantly agreed to allow the couple inside for continued negotiations, but a brief melee ensued after Markowicz lit a marijuana cigarette in the lobby. Mohammed-Haq angrily demanded that police arrest him/her for violating New York's anti-smoking ordinance, but Markowicz quickly produced a prescription for medical marijuana for his/her glaucoma condition. In turn, he/she demanded police arrest Mohammed-Haq for violating the National Health Care Access Act, and for failure to post braille No Smoking signs. The angry Imam was restrained by police before he could unsheathe his scimitar, and lodged a complaint against Davis and Markowicz for violating New York's official Immigration Sanctuary Act.
As the center lobby filled with police, community leaders and lawyers, filing charges and counter-charges, a near-riot erupted outside when wedding reception catering trucks began arriving from Porky's 34th Street Barbecue and Midtown Liquors.
By late afternoon, federal, state, city, and borough courts reported over 1400 lawsuits filed related to the incident. Mayoral Spokesperson Karen Sternthal said that Bloomberg would be seeking emergency federal funding for an Appelate Judge troop surge to cope with the load, but expressed hopes that a "peaceful, mutually agreeable, transfat-free resolution" could be worked out between all parties.
"The good news is that this will be all worked out right here in New York," noted Sternthal. "And there's no other place this open minded."