SAN FRANCISCO – Marking the anniversary of his decision to sanction same-sex marriages, Mayor Gavin Newsom (search) on Saturday urged gay couples to back politicians who support gay marriage (search), saying it is time "to hold our elected officials accountable."
"It is no longer acceptable for politicians to come to you every election cycle and ask for money and then say, 'It's too much, too soon,'" Newsom told about 3,000 gay and lesbian supporters during a ceremony to remember the anniversary of last year's "Winter of Love," the four-week period when his administration granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The licenses were later voided by the California Supreme Court (search), which ruled that Newsom had overstepped his authority. A ruling is expected any day on a pair of lawsuits filed by the city and same-sex couples that seek to overturn California's marriage laws.
"He is a hero, especially to be a straight man and to stand up for our rights when he doesn't have to," said Beth McLaughlin, 40, who married her partner last year.
Although the couple was about to leave on an anniversary cruise to Mexico, McLaughlin said they did not hesitate to drive nearly 100 miles to hear the mayor speak at City Hall.
"For him to back us has been awesome, and he has stuck his head out on the chopping block quite a few times," McLaughlin said.
The 37-year-old Democrat is blamed for feeding a conservative rush to the polls in November, when 11 states passed anti-gay marriage amendments. Gay marriage opponents have taken steps to do the same in another 17 states, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (search) .
"I've never felt a greater sense of purpose — but beyond anything else, an obligation to finish this job," he said. "We will not back up. I have no regrets."
His "too much, too soon" remarks appeared aimed at Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The former San Francisco mayor has said Newsom's decision to let gay couples marry played a role in President Bush's re-election and that the gay marriage issue "has been too much, too fast, too soon."
He has recently criticized fellow Democrats for not taking a bolder stance on gay marriage and chastised New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for verbally supporting gay marriage while challenging a February ruling that New York's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
Standing on the grand marble staircase where many of the same-sex weddings took place, Newsom saved his sharpest rhetoric for Bush, who has endorsed amending the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage.
"Don't give up the fight. Don't feel discouraged. Don't listen to the president of the United States," Newsom said to thunderous cheers before leading the crowd in a chant of "Shame on you, George Bush."