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Prop. 8: California politicians at hearing speak of historic day

March 26, 2013|By Jessica Garrison
  • Supporters of marriage equality demonstrate outside at the Supreme Court as the justices heard arguments on California's Proposition 8 on Tuesday.
Supporters of marriage equality demonstrate outside at the Supreme Court… (Paul Morigi / Human Rights…)

California Lt. Gov1.Gavin Newsom and state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), two longtime champions of gay rights, were invited to the Supreme Court to be in the courtroom during Proposition 8 arguments at the invitation of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Newsom, who as mayor of San Francisco ignited the California debate over gay marriage in 2004 when he began marrying same-sex couples at San Francisco City Hall, said being in the courtroom was “emotionally staggering.”

He said that when his administration began holding weddings just before Valentine’s Day 2004 in San Francisco, “We were very aware [that it] would lead to litigation.”

But he also said that those weddings, particularly the marriage of Phyllis Lyon and the late Del Martin, who had been together for 50 years, “put a human face to marriage equality.”

Leno, who authored same-sex marriage bills in the Legislature that were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 and 2007, recalled that when he revealed he was gay at the age of 18 in 1969, "I was considered an outlaw." 

"Today I was at the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments about the constitutionality of my right to marry the person I love.”

The state senator, who is not a lawyer, called the questions from the justices “anything but definitive … they were not showing their hand.”

Even so, he said, it was "remarkable to have seen this arc of history over the past 40 years leading to today."


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