Rising Democratic star Cory Booker delivers fiery speech at HRC dinner

Rising Democratic star Cory Booker delivers fiery speech at HRC dinner

Newark Mayor Cory Booker suggested he’d pursue a gubernatorial run in New Jersey and — if elected — sign marriage equality legislation into law during a fiery keynote speech Saturday evening at the 16th annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner.

“I’m going to declare right now that the state of New Jersey — with all of the fiber of my being, with my allies left and right — that we will ensure that marriage equality is signed into law in the state of New Jersey,” Booker said. “And when that bill is signed, I may have a very good seat for it.”

Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker.
Photo: Michael Key, Washington Blade

It’s not the first time Booker has hinted at a possible gubernatorial run and that he’d lead the way for marriage equality as governor. During the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Booker made almost identical comments while addressing a caucus meeting of LGBT delegates.

Earlier this year, the New Jersey legislature approved legislation that would legalize marriage for gay couples, but that bill was vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. LGBT advocates are seeking to override his veto in the legislature.

Booker also told more than 3,000 attendees in attendance at the dinner — held at the Washington Convention Center — that their “spirit” is the same as the spirit that filled others creating social change in the United States, including those that founded the country, led the Underground Railroad that guided slaves to freedom and organized bus boycotts in the South.

“It is the unconquerable spirit that when some of us in our nation were told you aren’t good enough, this spirit stood and said, ‘Yes I am,’” Booker said.

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Booker, who gained renown for reducing crime in his city and for personally rescuing a woman in April from a house fire, is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. The Newark mayor was co-chair of the 2012 Democratic platform committee, which approved for the first time a marriage equality inclusive platform.

Sue Fulton, a lesbian West Point graduate who’s a founding board member of the LGBT military group known as OutServe, attended the dinner and expressed confidence that Booker has a bright future in the party.

“As a New Jerseyan married to a native New Jerseyan, I think Cory Booker is the real deal,” Fulton said. “And what he said tonight — he brought people to their feet, he brought people to tears because he believes down in his bones in real equality in this country and that is so inspiring to me, I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.”

Also on stage and providing the introduction to Booker was Chad Griffin, who spoke at the national dinner for the first time in his capacity as president of the nation’s largest LGBT organization.

“We can choose to step back, look at our recent successes, place our trust in the whims of public opinion and simply wait until the institutions of power finally open their doors to our community — or we can choose to be bold, we can choose to fight, fight for the laws we know we need and the welcoming country our families deserve,” Griffin said.

Prior to coming to HRC, Griffin served as board president of the California-based American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization behind the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8. Others were on the stage from the organization, including the plaintiffs challenging the same-sex marriage ban — a lesbian couple, Kristin Perry and Sandra Steir, and a gay male couple, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo — as well as Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, an AFER board member.

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