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
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
“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
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