San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom – who is often credited with opening gay marriage in California and is now riding a political windfall from it – recently spoke with Ray Suarez in Denver at the Democratic Convention.

In 2004, Newsom ordered city hall clerks to marry gay and lesbian couples against state law. Several thousand gay couples were married during the “winter of love,” but eventually the California Supreme Court ordered the city to stop and invalidated all the marriages.

The city, along with gay groups and individuals, sued the State of California. The court sided with Newsom, and in May struck down the 2000 law that banned gay marriage.

It's no surprise then that Newsom, who is contemplating a run at governor, is on a high in the mile high city.

The issue of gay marriage – and Newsom's instrumental involvement – came up while speaking with Suarez on a number of Democratic issues. Suarez asked if the fall referendum on the California ballot – Proposition 8, which would once again make gay marriage in the State illegal – could alter the presidential election; would the Republicans attempt to use gay marriage as a wedge issue.

“I don't think it will. I think this thing is, as they say, a proverbial golden oldie. It was pulled out in the 2004 election with, I think, some success. They tried it again in the '06 mid-term elections with less success,” Newsom told Ray Suarez for the PBS program The Newshour Insider Forum. “I mean, you had pictures of San Francisco's Nancy Pelosi with Barack Obama and with guns, gods, and gays and we thought, wait a second: Didn't we just do this in '04 and 2000? Enough is enough. People are looking for real solutions to these big problems and even John McCain and his straight face can't say, this election should be about same-sex marriage; it's ridiculous.”

Newsom, who recently married and is heterosexual, added that the word “marriage” is rather significant.

“Well, I've got a father who understands that. He says, why do you have to call it marriage? And I remind him that I don't know many married people that make that argument that have given up their marriage license for a civil union. I don't know many people that even know how to ask someone to marry them by saying, well, can we have – can I civil-union you? I mean, what is in a word? Everything is in a word.”

“Separation is not a core construct or a value that this country should embrace. It has in the past, but Brown V. Board of Education reconciled that. And for any Democrat, with respect to standing on the principles of Brown V. Board of Education and celebrate its 54-, 55-year history and then hold the line on that, but not do the same for the LGBT community I think is short-sighted and mistaken. Separate is not equal.”

Add to that his answer about running for governor, would his deep involvement with gay rights hold him back as a state-wide candidate?

“This [campaigning against Prop 8] is not going to help me politically; I'm not naïve to that. I'm hardly front and center at this convention and I certainly wasn't in the last convention, but it's about my convictions; it's about my ability to sleep at night and reconcile the fact that we're running the 90 yard dash on gay and lesbian rights,” Newsom responded. “And if you believe fundamentally that people should have rights that are of the same sex, but you're not willing to extend them equal rights, then what is it about that point of view that distinguishes it from your point of view about civil rights for people based on race or ethnicity? What is inherently more significant about someone and their rights that happens to be of a different race that should not be extended equally to someone who may have a different sexual orientation?”