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Advisor: Prop. 8 repeal effort no prob for Newsom

I had coffee this morning with Garry South, wartime consigliere to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign. We covered a lot of ground, engaged in a little back-and-forth smack-talk (devil’s advocacy on my part, of course); South was – ahem – a forceful advocate for his client, as always.

Clearly, the gloves are indeed coming off: Watch in coming weeks for a lot more young-vs.-old, forward-vs.-backward framing of Newsom’s race against presumptive Democratic primary rival state Attorney General Jerry Brown, with an exhaustive and non-complimentary review of Brown’s former gubernatorial tenure.

Among the questions I asked South was how having a ballot measure to repeal Proposition 8’s same-sex marriage ban on the November 2010 would impact the gubernatorial race. Somewhat unsurprisingly, he said it would have “no real impact on the dynamic of the race.”

Remember, Newsom is identified with the issue of gay marriage perhaps more than any other politician in America , given his 2004 order that San Francisco start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and his ardent advocacy for same-sex marriage rights ever since.

South said both Newsom and Brown will be viewed as same-sex marriage supporters who opposed Proposition 8 and support its repeal. Both the likely possible Republican nominees, Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman (sorry, Tom Campbell), would oppose its repeal, yet both are otherwise somewhat moderate on other social issues, he said – they’re pro-choice, pro-stem-cell research, environmentally savvy and support domestic partnership laws.

And neither Poizner nor Whitman wants to incur the wrath of the state’s decline-to-state voters, who not only account for 20 percent of California’s registered voters – a vital swing vote in the gubernatorial general election – but who also tended to oppose Proposition 8, according to polls before and after last November’s election.

I asked whether the church-going Democrats and decline-to-state voters who helped Proposition 8 prevail would be turned off by Newsom’s candidacy, but South argued most of them would split their votes, voting for Newsom and against Proposition 8’s repeal. He said he challenges anyone to demonstrate a case in which a ballot measure impacted a simultaneous gubernatorial election, other than Pete Wilson riding Proposition 187 to a come-from-behind re-election victory over Kathleen Brown in 1994.

South said Newsom’s principled stand on same-sex marriage is what catapulted him onto the political A-list, his ticket into the 2010 race, and he won’t have any need to run from it.

All that said, I can’t believe we’d get out of next year’s general-election season without seeing a revival of the “whether you like it or not” video clip, red meat for social conservatives across party lines. I guess we’ll see.

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Random observations from the Prop.8 arguments

My story on this morning’s three hours of arguments to the California Supreme Court should be hitting the site imminently, but while it’s being edited, a few less-germaine-yet-colorful observations:

1.) Kenneth Starr was wearing a pink tie. Coincidence or stagecraft?
2.) Several of us wondered what Starr and attorney Gloria Allred were laughing and chatting about before the arguments began — how best to get and stay in front of a television camera?
3.) The court heard these arguments one day after its 159th anniversary.
4.) People began lining up for the courtroom’s few available public seats as early as 4 a.m.; three sets of 20 cycled through, each listening to an hour of the arguments.
5.) The state constitution says the court’s clerk can withhold the justices’ pay if they don’t issue a ruling within 90 days; he said that’s never been a problem.

And from outside the courtroom, some of the more imaginative or incendiary signs people held aloft:

  • “Religion is a choice, being gay is not”
  • “My two moms can beat up your ten wives”
  • “The people voted — you are intolerant”
  • “Remember Rose Bird”
  • “Gay = pervert”
  • “Homo-sex is a threat to national security”
  • “A moral wrong cannot be a civil right”
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    Reader reactions to this week’s Prop. 8 case

    As expected, I’ve received a lot of phone messages and e-mails about the story I had in Sunday’s editions about this week’s California Supreme Court arguments over Proposition 8. Sorry for the delayed response; I was out of the office on unpaid furlough yesterday, so chalk my silence up to the newspaper industry’s slow death-spiral. And while I don’t have time today to call or write back to each individual commenter, I thought I should address it collectively here.

    First, a reiteration of something I noted in the article. I called and/or e-mailed more than a dozen East Bay donors to, or former public supporters of, Proposition 8; none would consent to be interviewed for this story. I also gave the Yes on 8 campaign more than a week to find me such a person in Alameda or Contra Costa counties; they also couldn’t find anyone to go on the record with me. I summarized the Yes on 8 side’s arguments based on the briefs so as not to leave that side unrepresented.

    To those of you who saw fit to send me e-mails or leave me voice messages on your personal views, or the Bible’s views, about the morality of homosexuality: I don’t care. That is, you’re entitled to your opinion, but that’s not what this debate is about. The Bible is not the controlling legal foundation of this state; the California Constitution is, and this case is about how and when we make changes to that document.

    One woman said she voted for Proposition 8 not because she has anything against gay people or same-sex marriage, but because she feared what allowing same-sex marriage would mean for public schools and churches. I’m not sure I understand that argument – you don’t have a problem with it, but you believe children must be shielded from it? As I blogged last year, public schools teach the law of the land; if the law of the land says gay people have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples, that’s what schools will teach (assuming they teach anything at all about any kind of marriage). As for churches, there’s no indication they’d be compelled to solemnize same-sex marriages any more than a Catholic church is currently required to hold a wedding Mass for a Jewish couple. Churches always have had choice in the rites they perform; that wasn’t going to change.

    If you wrote or voice-mailed me with concerns about when the majority does and doesn’t rule, or about the judiciary’s role in interpreting constitutional rights – congratulations, you get what this week’s case is all about.

    And to all of you, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my work.

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    Courage Campaign renews Warren debate call

    California’s progressive, grassroots Courage Campaign, still incensed that Barack Obama invited Rick Warren – a renowned author and the pastor of Orange County’s Saddleback Church, as well as a strong, public supporter of Proposition 8’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage – to deliver an invocation at tomorrow’s inauguration, renewed its challenge today to meet Warren for a debate in February or March about marriage equality.

    “There should’ve been more thought placed in the choosing of Rev. Warren for the invocation,” Rev. Eric Lee, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, told reporters on a teleconference this morning, citing Warren’s comparison of gay and lesbian relationships with pedophilia and incest. “As clergy we need to be compassionate, we need to be tolerant, we need to be respectful of all things and all people, and the comments Rev. Warren made were not respectful, they were dehumanizing.”

    “No faith or religion has the right to forcibly impose their theology,” said Lee, adding marriage shouldn’t be a theological discussion “but rather a civil, institutional discussion.”

    But while Warren’s selection for the invocation was “a mistake,” it’s a done deal, Courage Campaign founder and director Rick Jacobs said. Given that, Warren should now follow Obama’s instruction that “we all talk to each other” about the issues that divide us.

    The Courage Campaign delivered an invitation and 25,000 campaign members’ signatures to Warren’s church on Christmas eve, and Lee followed up with a Jan. 13 letter. According to an Orange County Register article published Friday, a “spokeswoman for Warren said that the Saddleback pastor is focused on President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, in which he will deliver the invocation, and is not making any comments prior to it.”

    So Jacobs and Lee today demanded Warren answer their invitation as soon as Wednesday, right after the inauguration.

    And if he doesn’t answer this call to debate, Jacobs said, he’ll then have to answer whether he’s “serious about dialogue or is he just interested in making his point.”

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    What went wrong with the No on 8 campaign

    Marriage Equality USA today posted the first of three reports based on community forums and surveys they’ve been conducting since Proposition 8 — which changed the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage — was approved by voters in November.

    “We received input from community forums hosted across California and over 3,100 individuals across the United States and in 13 foreign countries,” said MEUSA Police Director Pamela Brown. “This report is the first of three to be issued in the month of January that will share the ‘collective wisdom’ gathered by summarizing from this grassroots input.”

    Among the findings, according to the group’s news release:

  • Clergy leaders, identified as the most effective messengers for marriage equality, were underutilized in the No on 8 campaign,
  • MEUSA and like-minded groups must promote the leadership and inclusion of people of color as part of the LGBT family to inform and direct outreach to these communities,
  • The official No on 8 campaign ads lacked heart and inexcusably excluded same-sex couples and their families,
  • The official No on 8 field plan lacked visibility and ignored potential volunteers,
  • The official No on 8 campaign abandoned LGBT community and supporters in the Central Valley, and
  • Empowering the grassroots community will help advance the national marriage equality movement.
  • The next report, scheduled for release next Monday, “will share stories of discrimination and harm that resulted from California’s Prop 8 campaign and mirror similar experiences of our LGBTI community and straight allies who have faced similar ballot initiative campaigns,” the release says. “Finally, our third report to be issued later in January will provide MEUSA’s plan for the future on how to win support for marriage equality in all 50 states.”

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    Boycotted for backing Prop. 8? Too bad.

    I’ve had a slew of e-mails and phone calls in the past few days complaining that I, or my paper, or the mass media overall have failed to adequately report the “terror campaign” against supporters of Proposition 8.

    I’ve seen plenty of media stories about protests both peaceful and illegal, and based on the information I’ve got, I can say that most have been peaceful. There are some thugs out there who are using the high emotion and constitutional battle over same-sex marriage to excuse criminal behavior, and that’s unequivocally wrong, but the vast majority of people who’ve taken to the streets and the Internet since Nov. 4’s vote have done so legally and peacefully.

    The Yes on 8 camp put out a release Friday complaining of “outrageous activities” such as:

  • In Sacramento, a musical theater director was forced to resign after he was blacklisted for contributing $1000 to the initiative;
  • A Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles has been boycotted after a relative of the owner donated to the coalition;
  • Numerous churches have had their property defaced;
  • And an unknown white powder was mailed to several LDS temples and the National Headquarters of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization that supported the campaign.
  • As to the latter two: Anyone committing acts of vandalism, violence or terrorism should be hunted down and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, no question.

    As to the former two: Tough cookies.

    The Mormon Church and all those who supported Prop. 8 expressed their convictions and participated part in the political process, true enough, but that doesn’t mean others can’t hold them accountable. They chose to involve themselves in a question of other people’s civil rights. Standing by their convictions means accepting the consequences; in this case, the consequence is that those who disagree may choose not to associate with them, and to encourage others to do the same. They can’t jump into the public discourse and then claim some special protection from criticism.

    It takes a lot of nerve for opponents of same-sex marriage to whine about boycotts and blacklisting, after all the boycotts and blacklists endured over the years by gays and lesbians and those who’ve stood up for their rights. Given how gays and lesbians long have been ostracized simply for who they are, it’s amazing to see those same ostracizers complain now about being ostracized themselves for their beliefs.