Shafer and Newsom
KQED’s Scott Shafer interviews Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

As San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom made headlines worldwide when he ordered the city clerk’s office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Between Feb. 12 and March 11, 2004, nearly 4,000 same-sex couples got married at City Hall despite a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Now, Newsom discusses why he gave the order and how reaction in the LGBT community was not all positive. He also revisits his notorious “whether you like it or not” line, which he concedes gave opponents of same-sex marriage measure a powerful weapon in their 2008 campaign for Proposition 8.

“Not my best moment,” Newsom said. “I got caught up in that moment. And I was also talking about the rights movement, where, whether you like it or not — over the objections of the majority — this country has always fought for the rights of minorities.”

Bonus video: Newsom discusses Americans’ changing attitudes on same-sex marriage, including those of his father and grandfather.

“Individuals’ and families’ [attitudes] are shifting — my father included,” Newsom said, noting his father lives in Placer County, known for its conservative bent. “He’s an old Jesuit, an old Irish Catholic. He said, ‘Can’t you just call it something else?'”

But because people are having conversations about same-sex marriage more than ever, because it’s a common topic in pop culture and because more people are coming out, even more social conservatives are changing their minds, Newsom said.

Newsom cites Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, as an example. Portman was a longtime opponent of same-sex marriage until he announced a change of heart mid-March upon learning his son is gay.

“All of a sudden the conversation is spreading in a way where people realize it’s okay,” Newsom said. “This is my brother, my sister, my aunt, my uncle, my kids, my grandkids.”

This interview and more coverage will air on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California” Friday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Watch an interview here with Andy Pugno, a Prop. 8 co-author and counsel for

Video: Newsom on Same-Sex Marriage 25 March,2013Rachael Bale

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    “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963

    What Mayor Newsome did was to not remain silent. I am so thankful for that.


Rachael Bale

Rachael Bale is researcher and reporter for The Center for Investigative Reporting and occasional contributor to KQED News and The California Report. A California native, she has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Reed College and a master’s degree in journalism from American University.

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