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    Pride Bursting Out at the California Democratic Convention

    marriageequalityEarlier this month, we spoke at the California Democratic Convention celebration of the tenth anniversary of San Francisco’s “Winter of Love,” when over 4,000 same-sex couples from all over the world married at San Francisco City Hall. The celebration was an exhilarating event that hundreds of convention goers attended. At many times, the convention itself resembled a Pride fest.

    Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom rocked the house at the Winter of Love celebration, and in his speech to the convention at large praised LGBT activists who were not politicians for paving the way for the successes we see today. Indeed, now over ten governors and state attorneys general, including some from such unexpected places as Kentucky and Virginia – as well as President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder – have refused to defend laws that discriminate against LGBT people in marriage. Ten years ago, San Francisco Mayor Newsom and City Attorney Dennis Herrera set the example for others to follow by recognizing that the Constitution demanded equality and should prevail over discriminatory state statutes.

    The power and influence of the LGBT community in state government was also on display at the convention. The California Legislative LGBT Caucus boasts its highest number of elected officials ever with eight members, including twelve-year member Mark Leno, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair, Tom Ammiano, a member for six years. The Caucus meeting at the Convention was so packed with LGBT and allied people that the crowd flowed out into the hallway.

    John Perez, the first openly gay man to serve as Speaker of the California Assembly, will pass the torch to Toni Atkins, the current Assembly Majority Leader, who will become the first openly lesbian Speaker of the Assembly. Never before in American history has a state legislature had consecutive LGBT Speakers. The fact that California, the most populous and one of the most diverse states in the nation, will have unbroken legislative leadership from the LGBT community is a marker of how far our community has come politically.

    The number of LGBT-supportive California statewide officer holders, such as Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, who refused to defend Proposition 8, and state legislative leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, who chaired the first state legislative committee in American history to pass a marriage equality bill, are too numerous to mention. The Convention also attracted Annise Parker, the openly lesbian may of Houston, Texas, America’s fourth largest city, and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who signed that state’s marriage equality bill in 2012.

    In terms of legislation, convention goers celebrated the failure of the anti-equality effort to gather signatures to repeal the state’s landmark legislation to protect transgender students. With an upcoming legislative agenda that Equality California describes as improving the lives of LGBT Californians “from cradle to grave,” we say: Onward!

    John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, together for nearly three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. They are leaders in the nationwide grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA.