Alex Blaze

Whether you like it or not, Gavin Newsom is awesome

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 10, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: California, Gavin Newsom, gay marriage, LGBT, marriage, Matt Gonzales, mayor, newsom, people, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage, san francisco, supervisor

Jerame posted on Gavin Newsom being honored by the Task Force this week with a Leadership Award earlier this week.

He also won an award, indirectly, at the Pollies two weeks ago. The Pollies are the awards political consultants give themselves after a campaign season (like the Oscars, with categories and everything), because if there's something we need more of in America, it's political consultants congratulating themselves. Well, the Pollie for Best TV/Radio Campaign went to the folks who produced this:

w00t! I'm sure Gavin's proud of his lead role in that influential ad.

In fact, it wasn't just any old ad in that campaign, it was the one that really, really helped push the Yes campaign. They seriously couldn't have won without it:

That lead to a religious-based campaign designed around the unforeseen "consequences" gay marriage impacting religious freedom and "personal freedom of expression, with respect to how this new so-called 'fundamental right' would be taught to children in public schools."

Schubert explained their repeated, disciplined message: "This is not about tolerance but about the forced acceptance of gay marriage."

Schubert said that the California Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on May 15 not only said that the statute banning same sex marriage was unconstitutional - they also made gays a "protected legal class," setting up conflicts "in everyday life between gay couples asserting their right to marry and the deeply held beliefs of people who do not support gay marriage."

And understanding the consequences of this conflict were "enormously important." Schubert said:

"The rights of the gay couple are going to prevail because of the way the courts reached their decision and that's why it's important to this underlying message: you have to accept gay marriage whether you like it or not."

To religious people for whom marriage is a "God-created institution," this was a very "big deal" and, Schubert said, religion became the "number one driver" of the campaign messaging as well as a prime pump for fundraising.

Local media touted the speech Newsom gave as very helpful to the Yes on 8 campaign. Here's Rex Wockner in October:

A TV ad showing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom saying California is going to have same-sex marriage "whether you like it or not" is being credited with flipping poll numbers to favor the Nov. 4 ballot proposition to amend the state constitution to undo the state Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.

This door's wide open now. It's gonna happen. Whether you like it or not!" Newsom says in a clip included in the ad paid for by forces supporting passage of Proposition 8. The ad continues: "Four judges ignored 4 million voters and imposed same-sex marriage on California. It's no longer about tolerance. Acceptance of gay marriage is now mandatory. That changes a lot of things: People sued over personal beliefs. Churches could lose their tax exemption. Gay marriage taught in public schools. We don't have to accept this. ('Whether you like it or not!') Yes on 8."

I remember being on a conference call in early October with the folks running the No campaign and them saying that the ad changed everything. It was highly diffused and played right into their message against same-sex marriage. This ad wasn't a blip - it was the turning point of the whole campaign.

So say whatever you want about Schubert, that he's a homophobic bigot, a lying con artist, or that he makes sucky pie, the dude won the campaign with discipline, ethnic and racial inclusion, and a sophisticated marketing plan. It was a huge campaign, he knew what buttons to push, and his strategy worked.

What did Gavin Newsom do for the gays or to advance marriage? It's an important question, since that's the exact reason he was honored by the Task Force:

Newsom has been a courageous and outspoken leader for LGBT rights for many years. In 2004, he gained worldwide attention when he directed the San Francisco County Clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Those marriages were later annulled, and the challenge to Prop 22 continued. I also remember him going on Dr. Phil to talk about marriage. That was nice. I'm sure he enjoyed being on national TV.

My question is: why was Gavin Newsom honored? What has he done tangibly to advance LGBT equality and freedom, especially this past year? Is he among our best and brightest leaders? And, with a movement that has so many people attaching themselves to it for their own personal glory, why should we be encouraging a straight politician's arrogance when he's obviously using our battle to bolster his own efforts to advance his political career?

Newsom had a reputation for cheap campaign tactics back when he was a San Francisco Supervisor and he wanted to pass a high profile bill to reduce benefits for the homeless with his "Care not Cash" program. It was a great way to take advantage of the increasingly conservative middle to upper class population in SF in his run for mayor against a liberal (yes, Newsom ran as the right-leaning candidate in his 2003 mayoral campaign against Matt Gonzalez). While said "care" never arrived even though the "cash" was cut, the program did propel Newsom's career. Lots of people in SF, especially business owners who gave him over $4 million to campaign on, just don't like homeless people.

And the 2004 marriages were a great publicity stunt for him. Now he's known all over the country by people who never would have otherwise cared about the mayor of a city they don't live in. And he wasn't able to keep his arrogance in check either while delivering that speech (do campaign speeches to drum up support for a measure usually say that winning is inevitable and that, even if people don't work for its passage, it'll become a reality? That seems to be another one of the reasons Prop 8 won - our side just assumed that it wouldn't get through, leading to complacency). Well, turns out some people don't like arrogance.

At the Task Force ceremony, Newsom mentioned his ambitions for the governor's office citing the creation of an exploratory committee. We all know it's coming, and I'm sure there'll be a high-profile, expensive, "pro-business" campaign on his behalf to boot.

But with all the people doing actual, real work to advance LGBT equality out there, isn't there someone who did something effective that the Task Force could have chosen to honor in this way? These awards are supposed to encourage like behavior and highlight folks who are doing tangible work for us, not attention-seeking politicians who will use our movement as they see fit to advance their careers.

If the Task Force was really stuck on marriage in California, then why not honor Shannon Minter, who argued the case and won the right to marry in May? That's incredibly good work that tangibly advanced LGBT rights. The 2008 California marriages will prove to be much more epoch-making than the 2004 ones in SF.

Or why not focus on an issue besides marriage and the people working on it who I'm sure don't get enough attention from the greater movement for their work? Like queer homelessness? (And I make that suggestion with all the irony that comes with it in a conversation about honoring Gavin Newsom.)

I know, I know, they were charging $250 a plate, the Task Force is a great org doing great work that needs to fundraise so they invited a big name to draw a crowd. If that's their calculus, then chapeau. But if they were actually giving the award for more substantive reasons, then I think that they ought to have considered it a bit more before giving it to Newsom.

Because, yeah, I'm still mad that we lost Prop 8 last year.


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Hey - I voted for Matt Gonzalez in 2003. Don't blame me.

Gavin Newsom does intentional good for us, and unintended harm. And I agree that when he does the intentional good, there's usually an angle to it that puts him in the news.

Re the unintentional, it's amazing that a politician who is supposed to have political savvy would make such an arrogant and thoughtless public remark, one that would obviously be needlessly offensive to so many voters.

But that's not the whole story. The ad might be identified by some as a "turning point" in the campaign, but that doesn't negate the fact that the No on 8 people ran a lousy, lousy campaign that largely ignored black and Latino voters. Nor does it negate the fact that the GLBT movement nationally invested too much attention on Obama and not enough on fighting Prop 8.

The more I learn about Gavin Newsom, the less I like him and the more I think LGBTQ movement doesn't mean to include people like me. When he could have been campaigning for rights for same-sex couples, he instead spent last october and november campaigning against the safety and rights of sex workers. He's anti-sex worker, anti-homeless, and if I lived in San Francisco I could probably name some others.

Even if he gets marriage rights for some, it won't be very meaninful to the LGBTQ people living on the streets or being assaulted because of his policies.

newsom is a pickle smoking criminal who protects illegal spic scum evan after they murder tax payers.he deserves a good coat of tar,feathers and rail service out of town.

Yeah, Gavin Newsom is such a fucking champ.

As a low income trans sex worker I've experienced so much benefit from having a pro-same sex marriage mayor in san francisco. Never mind that he passed 17 million dollars in budget cuts to the public health program (interesting that you should bring up care not cash, hmmm) so that the clinic for sex workers I volunteer at will have to close many of it's programs and fire most of it's staff...or that CUAV - the queer domestic violence and hate crimes advocacy and counseling service had to do the same. Or that many of the HIV programs for p.o.c. are shutting their doors. We gays here in SF still know that he's on our side - or at least the side of rich homos that have some extra money laying around to contribute to his campaign coffers.

I've seen what happens on this blog when you make threatening statements so I'll keep it inside but words cannot express how deeply I hate gavin newsom and how disgusted I am at the LGBT task force for honoring his sleazy ass.

Obviously the person who wrote this does not live in San Francisco where we know Newsom as a bad joke who has managed one accomplishment as mayor, and who then helped destroy that accomplishment. Yes, his "Whether you like it or not..." speech was a dumb move that actually helped pass Prop 8. Newsom is no friend anyone who is not wealthy. The only reason he pushed for gay marriage was to head off an early recall effort.

Personally, I think, given that he wants to run for governor, that the good people of San Francisco should simply recall him and give him more time to dedicate to his efforts to wreck the state. In fact, I suggest the following for his campaign slogan:

"He did it to Ruby, he's doing it to San Francisco, and now he wants to do it to California, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT, OR NOT!!!!"

Thanks, y'all. It's difficult to know if Newsom is an actual icon to LGBT people or just a player.