In a "Winter of Love" event at the California Democratic Party convention this weekend, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated the 10th anniversary of his having flouted state law by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“It’s an extraordinary thing, what we started 10 years ago,” Newsom told attendees at a Saturday night party on the pool terrace of the Westin Bonaventure hotel in downtown Los Angeles. “We started a conversation. … It was millions of those conversations that were won that is ultimately why we are where we are today.”

Newsom was standing alongside two couples -- John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, and Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac -- who married on the day in 2004 when Newsom, then mayor of San Francisco, ordered local officials to issue the licenses. The state Supreme Court halted the marriages four weeks later.

Bailes said she and her long-time partner were in Davis when they heard on the radio that Newsom was allowing the marriage of same-sex couples.

“We looked at each other, jumped in our car and we got to San Francisco in less than an hour,” Bailes said. “I was driving as fast as my heart was beating.”

Pontac added, “If you ask any couple that’s gotten married if it makes any difference to be married, it does. There’s nothing like it.”

In an interview, Newsom marveled at the sea change in attitudes toward gay marriage, which is now legal in 17 states and Washington D.C.

“It’s extraordinary,” he said. “If you told me 10 … years ago we’d be close to where we are today, I never would have believed it.”

Newsom’s convention party is one of the hottest tickets at the Democrats' annual gathering. Nearly 1,800 people attended, and were entertained by the group Wilson Phillips.

Newsom is among a generation off Democrats who are actively eyeing higher office. He has said he would run for governor this year if incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown were not seeking reelection.

Speculation has swirled about whether he would run for a Senate seat if California's Democratic U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein were to retire. He appeared to have his sights on a gubernatorial run.

“I love the executive,” he said. “I love doing. … I’m a public-policy guy. I like implementing ideas and ideals, so that’s my bias.”

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSeema