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Vincent Gray on the passage of D.C.'s marriage equality law

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on marriage equality 02:05

CBS News asked noted figures in the arts, business and politics about their experience in today's civil rights movement, or about figures who inspired them in their activism.

Mayor Vincent Gray, Washington, D.C.

Is there something that you'd like to share about your personal connection to civil rights issues?

Courtesy Mayor Vincent Gray

I was the chair of the council before I became the mayor of the District of Columbia, and one of the things that that council took on was the question of marriage equality. This was back in 2009, when there had not been a lot of change from a policy perspective around the country. I was proud to be a part of the council that approved marriage equality overwhelmingly.

There were some sectors in which it was not accepted; those policy changes were rejected, were responded to very negatively. But it did not deter the council, it did not deter the city. And today as we look back on it now, almost five years ago, there have been enormous changes in the city, and acceptance. Frankly, I think the District of Columbia helped set the tone for marriage equality in the nation. And again, I'm proud to be a part of the city that has made these changes.

One of the things that was disconcerting to me was to see some of those people who I'd known for years, some of the people who I'd worked with for many years, around the issue of marriage equality giving negativity and negative responses to me in the aftermath for the position that I took.

There was one person who was a religious leader in the District of Columbia. I took the opportunity to pick up the phone and call to speak to him before I cast a vote, before I publicly indicated my position. And he responded very negatively, and our relationship has never been the same since.

So those are the prices that you pay at times for taking what I would call a principled position on an issue. I have absolutely no regrets -- in fact I'm glad that we moved forward as we have. But you realize also the prices that you pay in the course of trying to take a position that may be different than the mainstream position has been historically.

Please share how a civil rights figure influenced you personally.

The Rev. Walter Fauntroy in 2010. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

One of the people who I thought was personally influential to me was the Rev. Walter Fauntroy. He worked with Dr. King, he was involved in the marches, he was involved in crafting the strategy that continued to unfold.

Fauntroy had gone to the same high school that I went to -- well before me -- but he is such an influential figure, certainly during that period in the nation's capital, but really nationally, because he was one of the key people with Dr. King helping to determine how it is that some of these issues would continue to be addressed.

[He was] a man who many times put himself in harm's way, all for a principle that obviously is not even debated in these circles any more.

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