Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The problem with Newsom's gay marriage initiative

Photo by Kim Komenich, SF Chronicle

The city's political leadership and media continue to sanitize the history on Gavin Newsom's gay marriage initiative in early 2004. At the very least, Herrera, as City Attorney, should have told Newsom that the city was likely to lose when challenged in court on issuing marriage licenses, which is what happened. Whether Dennis Herrera opposed the initiative is an interesting issue, since it will cost him some gay votes to the extent that the charge is seen as credible.

This morning's story in the Chronicle refers to Senator Feinstein's criticism of Newsom: "There was also no shortage of critics of Newsom's decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses in violation of state law. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said it was  'too much, too fast, too soon.'"

What Feinstein and other Democrats---including gay Congressman Barney Frank---were worried about at the time was the political impact of Newsom's initiative, since 2004 was an election year, and President Bush was already using the issue with a proposal for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Democrats were right to be worried, since 11 states subsequently put gay marriage bans on the ballot, and all 11 passed, which helped reelect Bush in a close election.

The question Newsom has never been able to answer: Why not wait until after the election to make that initiative? Why give Republicans any extra motivation to vote in November, 2004?

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