Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gavin Newsom: The Savior or Saboteur of Gay Marriage?

Call me suspicious, paranoid, a pessimist, but my celebration of San Francisco's brief "legalization" of same-sex marriage in 2004 was tempered by deep concern, something I tried to keep hidden in order to support my friends who were taking advantage of the moment to tie the knot. While most San Franciscans immediately hailed the decision, I felt worried about the actual effects down the road.

There's a certain political chaos theory that seems to come into play a lot of the time, where actions taken eventually have the opposite of their intended effect. Look, for instance, at President Bill Clinton's attempt to end the military's anti-gay discriminatory policy, or his and Hillary's attempt to put together universal health care. Both were handled so terribly that they caused an enormous backlash, which, in my opinion, set both causes back 20 years or more. We humans have such emotional reactions to politicians that I find it useful to look at the actual results, the real effects, of their actions: while Clinton was an inspiring speaker on gay rights, and hired lots of gays and lesbians in the White House, what were the effects of his eight years in office? DOMA and "Don't Ask Don't Tell." It's sad we have to play that game, but it's something we don't think twice about doing with George W. Bush, whose every word seems to be the direct opposite of his actions and their effects.

So, while seeing long-time couples finally tie the knot in the dramatic rotunda of San Francisco's City Hall was undeniably emotional and affecting, let's talk about reality. What did those marriages "mean"? They were issued in defiance of state and federal law, they had no legal weight whatsoever. It was almost like the couples were being used, their emotions toyed with: here, sign these papers that would be legal in any other circumstance, but for you, they're just a "protest." Then, in a couple weeks, this "marriage" you thought you had will be dissolved, but Gavin Newsom will get all the credit for "fighting the system" in a way that had no real consequences, and his approval ratings will go through the roof, assuring him of reelection.

Actually, I take that back: there were real consequences, and they were negative. A country unsure about this whole gay thing was treated to visions of their most-hated city enacting "play" gay marriages, enacting every concern they have. Not to defend their points of view, but we've seen how rhetoric and terminology are important recently with John McCain and Sarah Palin inciting nutbag supporters to scream "Kill him" at their rallies, so I think we can all agree that understanding how to "play a crowd" is a vital part of politics. While McCain/Palin seem to be fanning flames of hatred with secret whispers and winks (although McCain, at least lately, seems to have come to a sobering realization of what's going on), Newsom's unilateral marriage stunt was like making Frankenstein's monster do a breakdance in front of an angry mob: just a useless taunting of a dangerous crowd. Of course, we all know what happened in 2004: John Kerry lost a close election and state after state amended their constitutions with bans on same-sex marriage or any recognition whatsoever of same sex couples.

Now, in the wake of this year's California Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, Proposition 8 is on the November ballot to ban it again. For a while this summer, it looked like it was going down, but new polls seem to show it winning. What, pray tell, is part of the reason? The San Francisco Chronicle has an idea:

The mayor has become the reluctant face of the campaign opposing same-sex unions with the help of a prominent Yes-on-Proposition-8 television ad. Conservative blogs have been atwitter about Newsom last week officiating at the wedding of a lesbian teacher whose class of first-graders took a field trip to celebrate with her.

In many ways, Newsom has become the single best campaign tool for proponents of Prop. 8 - and that might have been inevitable, political experts said.

"His pictures have become the rallying cry for Prop. 8. It's unfortunate for him, and it's unfortunate for the anti-Prop. 8 campaign," said Barbara O'Connor, a professor of political communications at California State University Sacramento. "I don't know that I would change his behavior, because he's representing his constituency, and he's been totally consistent in his position. But he's become everyone's worst nightmare."

Of course, in all truthfulness, I would be a terrible politician: I'd just blurt out whatever I was thinking at all times without any regard for the consequences, and I'm sure I'd screw things up. But that's why I don't run for office. There are people I know who have deified Gavin Newsom, and I've had to listen to them give tearful tributes to him at more than one wedding, as though he alone has made the marriages possible. On the contrary: there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the 2004 stunt did anything but energize the opposition and complicate the inevitable court case, and his naive, self-serving actions are now galvanizing the forces who would take these rights away again.


ac said...

Help stop the hate - here are three things you can do to make a difference right now:

1. Sign the petition to end incitement of hatred by McCain/Palin.

2. Write your Congressperson about it.

3. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.

And spread the word!

Viagra Online said...

difficult to say, this men is like the theater masks, one of the faces cry for the rights of the gay community, the other smile because gay people don't have any right to be happy, so what is the real face of this men.

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