Hollywood stars support Newsom over same-sex marriage
June 10 2004 11:00 PM ET
In another sign that his decision to sanction same-sex marriages is paying political dividends, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom will be honored at a fund-raiser staged by Hollywood heavyweights who see him as a rising Democratic star. The June 14 event at the Los Angeles-area home of actor and director Rob Reiner will be cohosted by the likes of Barbra Streisand and husband James Brolin, television producer Norman Lear, billionaire entertainment mogul Haim Saban, GeoCities founder David Bohnett, and celebrity designer Michael Smith. "Gavin has emerged as a true hero and solidified his role in American history as a champion of equal rights for all," Reiner wrote in a solicitation letter. Proceeds from the $750-per-person reception, a price that is the maximum allowed under San Francisco's campaign finance laws, will help retire the $400,000 debt from Newsom's mayoral campaign last year. Several hundred invitations have been mailed.
Reiner first contacted Newsom with an offer of help back in February, when the 36-year-old mayor made national headlines by directing his administration to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, said Chad Griffin, a Hollywood political consultant who counts Reiner among his clients and also is cohosting the fund-raiser. "This is the first time he actually called the candidate and said, 'I would like to help you raise money,"' Griffin said. "It sort of evolved from that to us reaching out and putting together a great list of cohosts." Monday's event won't be Newsom's first fund-raiser outside San Francisco. In March, Democratic Party activists and several gay and lesbian groups contributed more than $10,000 to the mayor's campaign coffer during a luncheon in Washington, D.C.
Newsom's same-sex marriage crusade, which led to the issuance of marriage licenses to about 4,000 gay and lesbian couples, also earned him a place as a celebrity grand marshal in San Francisco's June 27 gay pride parade. The California supreme court ordered a stop to the unions in March pending its review of whether Newsom exceeded his authority as a city official. Newsom has jokingly called his decision a poor "political calculus" that won him as many enemies as friends. But Griffin said that by putting himself at the center of a burning civil rights issue, Newsom instantly boosted his credibility with deep-pocketed Hollywood activists--as well as his odds of one day winning statewide office. "What Gavin Newsom did put him on the radar screen not only of California well beyond the Bay Area, but it put him on the radar screen nationally," Griffin said.
Newsom's political consultant Eric Jaye said that while the mayor appreciates Hollywood's help, it's too soon to speculate how that support might fit into future campaigns. "He's long been considered someone who was a future star in our party, and I think the future has arrived and people see Mayor Newsom as the kind of bold leader that our party needs," Jaye said. Margery Tabankin, a longtime Democratic activist who advises Streisand on her political donations, said that while the singer-actress is happy to support Newsom, she may not attend the fund-raiser because she is making a movie. "She thinks he put himself way out on a limb," Tabankin said, "and whether you agree it was the right thing or the wrong thing to do politically, she feels he showed courage."
In related news, a California superior court judge has asked that a lawsuit challenging state laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman be consolidated with three other lawsuits arising from the politically charged issue of same-sex marriage and tried in San Francisco. Judge Richard Kramer's Wednesday recommendation to combine the four lawsuits will go to the state judicial council, the court's policy-making body, which will issue the final decision.