Newsom, Paterson Headline Prop. 8 Fund-Raiser In New York

By Kerry Eleveld

Originally published on Advocate.com September 26 2008 12:00 AM ET

New York Governor
David Paterson and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom
tag-teamed a $5,000-per-person fundraiser Thursday night in
Manhattan to defeat California’s marriage ban,
Proposition 8. Figures for the total dollars raised
were not immediately available.

“I just
feel in some ways badly,” Gov. Paterson told the
intimate gathering of roughly 60 people, “with
all the problems that we have right now and our
economy reeling at this time, that we have to spend time
dealing with this issue -- it actually offends me.”

But Paterson, who
became the first governor to say he would recognize
California’s same-sex marriages following the
state’s Supreme Court ruling, added a good bit
of levity to the evening. Recounting the fact that
Richard and Mildred Loving -- the plaintiffs in Loving v.
Virginia -- were originally arrested for violating the
Marriage Integrity Act, Paterson quipped, “I
thought 'marriage integrity' spoke to how you behaved
after you got married.”

Paterson drew an
analogy between gay marriages and common-law marriages
from other states -- unions New York has recognized for
years. “We recognize the rights that people
derive from other states, it’s really that
simple,” said the New York governor, who has
supported marriage equality for gays and lesbians
since 1995. “It’s this little unknown part
of the Constitution called the Full Faith and Credit Clause
-- it’s so big in the Constitution even I can
read it,” he added to applause and cheers.
Paterson is legally blind.

While attendees
welcomed Paterson’s dry wit, Newsom played the more
solemn role of the two, starting with a heartfelt thanks to
the governor for his personal support during a
time when Mayor Newsom had become a political hot
potato.

“In 2004,
there wasn’t a politician outside of San Francisco
who wanted anything to do with the politicians in San
Francisco,” Newsom said, recalling the fallout
from his decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
“It was a big to deal to me, and I mean it sincerely,
when then-Lt. Gov. David Paterson showed up to an
event in New York and not only showed up, he was
willing to take a picture with me -- it was an issue,
trust me -- and gave remarkable comments that gave me a
sense of optimism about the Democratic Party as much
as it did about the issue of equality.”

GAVIN NEWSOM X100 200809 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

Newsom also
harkened back to the plight of the Lovings, noting the words
of wisdom originally delivered to Richard Loving by a judge
in that case: “God, sir, put different races on
different continents for a reason. God never wanted
the races to mix.” As a practicing Catholic born and
raised, Newsom then observed, “How reminiscent
those words are to so many of the words that are being
used today against same-sex marriage -- same evocative
tone and tenor. And I find that particularly offensive, but
that’s exactly the type of language we’re
hearing in California today.”

Fast forwarding
to his front-row seat at the State of the Union in 2004,
Newsom remembered watching President Bush highlight what he
believed were the greatest issues of the day:
Abstinence, drug testing, steroid use, and the defense
of marriage. Rather sobering, given the state of the
union at present.

Despite other
national challenges, Newsom underscored the importance of
the marriage battle at hand. “I’ve seen some
polls that show us down by four points, not up by
eight or nine as a lot of polls have been advertised
to suggest,” he said. “This is going to be
extraordinarily close. If we win this thing, I think
it will be a dramatic tipping point in the history of
this issue.”

In total, six
people spoke, including out New York City Council speaker
Christine Quinn and the couple who hosted the event, Ira
Statfeld & Michael Recanati. But the draw for the
evening were three heterosexual men -- Newsom,
Paterson and SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera -- all of
whom have demonstrated in word and deed a passionate
commitment to ensuring that same-sex couples
eventually get equal protection under the law.

Newsom, in
particular, whose political career was declared all but dead
four years ago, looked like a marathoner who was hitting his
stride after some rocky terrain.

“We
can’t run the 90-yard dash on equality,” he
said, in closing.

“Particularly of the Democratic Party, I expect a
little bit more. ‘Separate is not
equal,’ we say in one breath, and then all the sudden
in the next breath we say, ‘Well, can’t
you just call it something else for the gay and
lesbian community?’

“What an
outrage!

You cannot run
the 90-yard dash on equality.

Words matter.

Separate is not
equal.

Civil unions is
not marriage.

Marriage is
equality.

That’s
what we’re fighting for with Proposition 8.”

If it sounds
poetic, it was.