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CAUSE CELEBRE / TINA DAUNT

Bratton backs gay marriages with $$

July 23, 2008|TINA DAUNT

LAPD Police Chief William J. Bratton has come out -- in favor of gay marriage.

As a wedding gift to friend and celebrity publicist Howard Bragman and his longtime partner, Chuck O'Donnell, Bratton made it official: He and his wife, former Court TV diva Rikki Kleiman, strongly believe that gays have a right to marry. And in honor of Bragman and O'Donnell, who wed this past week in Norwalk, the chief and Kleiman have made a donation to Equality California, a group seeking to stop a state ballot measure this November that would ban same-sex marriages.

"The Constitution guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Bratton said this week. "I see no reason why gays can't pursue happiness through marriage."

After learning of the Bragman-O'Donnell union a few days ago, Bratton and Kleiman asked the couple what they would like as a wedding present. Bragman was direct: No gifts -- instead, make a donation to Equality California to help stop Prop. 8. And please make it public.

Other friends of Bragman and O'Donnell -- who was USC's Tommy Trojan for 10 years -- have done the same. They include tennis star Martina Navratilova and former "Grey's Anatomy" actor Isaiah Washington. (He's been trying to make amends with the gay community since he was caught uttering an antigay slur backstage at the Golden Globes in January 2007; Bragman is his PR rep.)

The veteran celebrity spin master is hopeful that others will make donations to Equality California's efforts to stop Prop. 8 this fall.

"So many of these ballot initiatives seem esoteric and hypothetical," Bragman said. "Our marriage changed that for people who know us. Our love, respect and commitment has the power to change hearts and minds and make an ethereal concept real."

The ceremony was performed by West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang in Norwalk at the Los Angeles County Superior Court complex.

Help for families hit by illness

Some people are crushed by the problems and tensions familial illness brings. Rodney Peete and wife Holly Robinson Peete took on two of the most wrenching and turned them into opportunities for helping others.

When Holly's father was stricken with Parkinson's disease (and when the celebrity couple realized just how expensive treatment for that malady can be), they started a foundation to help others defray the cost of obtaining care for their loved ones.

Then, when their son, Rodney Peete Jr., now 10, was diagnosed with autism at age 3, the Peetes found that conventional medical opinion seemed to offer them little hope. They decided to expand their foundation to help fund options for parents in search of the hope they'd struggled so hard to secure for their son.

"We were told a lot of nevers," said Robinson Peete. " 'He would never do this. He would never do that. . . . He would never say "I love you." ' It was devastating. But as he got older and started to make progress, we wanted to share his story of hope."

On Saturday evening, the HollyRod Foundation staged its annual fundraiser in Malibu. More than 600 people, including Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Barry Bonds, Cedric the Entertainer, Daisy Fuentes, Harry Hamlin, Magic Johnson, Ricki Lake, Martin Lawrence, Lisa Rinna, and Vanessa L. Williams -- attended the evening gala.

The couple were hoping to raise more than $1 million, which will be used toward building an autism treatment center. The event was the largest since they started the organization 10 years ago.

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tina.daunt@latimes.com

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