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Marriage Equality

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

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


San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and New York governor David Paterson combined forces for a Manhattan fund-raiser Thursday. Paterson charmed the intimate crowd with his usual candor and Newsom fostered a sense of urgency, saying he had seen polls that put the opposition four points ahead of those who oppose the ban.

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."

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.

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