As the country races to the inevitable day when marriage equality is the law of the land, most of the focus has been on the plaintiffs and celebrity lawyers who have led the legal challenge to marriage bans. Lost in the shuffle has been the man who actually did something when marriage equality still seemed a faraway dream: Gavin Newsom.
As the dashing and telegenic mayor of San Francisco in 2004, Newsom simply decided to do the right thing. He declared that the city should issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples. The subsequent outpouring of joy from lesbian and gay couples — and handwringing from other politicians — changed the landscape forever. Here are five reasons why Newsom deserves to be in the front ranks of heroes when the history of marriage equality is written.
1. Newsom made marriage equality a reality for the first time.
Up until 2004, marriage equality was largely a theoretical debate. The issue had been debated in Hawaii in the 1990s, and courts in New England were grappling with it. But the actual first same-sex marriages were still three months away (in Massachusetts) when Newsom decided that the city should start issuing marriage licenses. Suddenly, the theoretical became very real, very fast.