Gavin Newsom, who initiated California gay marriage, hails ruling


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The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling striking down Proposition 8 was cheered by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who kicked off the gay marriage debate eight years ago as mayor of San Francisco by allowing same-sex couples there to get marriage licenses.

‘We put a human face on that issue,’ Newsom said at a press conference in his office in the state Capitol. ‘You can talk about discrimination in the abstract. You can read about it. But when you see it, it has a different impact, a different richness.’


As mayor, Newsom announced in February 2004 that San Francisco would grant same-sex couples the same marriage documents that it gave opposite-sex pairs. The lines of gay and lesbian couples that quickly flocked to City Hall were swiftly broadcast on national television, and Newsom became an instant political celebrity.

The San Francisco nuptials were eventually barred by the state Supreme Court. But in 2008, the court ruled that prior bans on gay marriage violated California’s Constitution. It was that second ruling that triggered the campaign for Proposition 8, which once again banned same-sex marriage in the state.

Now Newsom occupies a fairly low-profile post in state government. But, moments after the ruling striking down Proposition 8 was announced, he issued a five-paragraph statement. It began: ‘Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stands as a victory for the fundamental American principle that all people are equal, and deserve equal rights and treatment under the law. ‘

At his press conference he was more personal, noting that his own father had initially opposed same-sex marriage in 2004 but has since changed his mind. The public, Newsom said, is doing the same.

‘This is the one last big piece of the civil rights movement,’ he said, ‘and it’s happening in our time.’


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-- Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento