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“Gavin, Gorby”; “Gorby, Gavin”

January 22nd, 2010 No comments

Glasnost. Perestroika. Marriage equality.

Gavin, meet Gorby. Gorby, meet Gavin. (“Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah. )

Sometimes it happens that leaders of social change are left behind by the very forces they helped unleash. After Mikhail Gorbachev awoke the sleeping Soviet bear, he was quickly — rudely — brushed aside by the faux-democratic Yeltsin, who twisted the great visionary’s call to greater democracy into cynical manipulation: Appear to be more democratic while playing to populist fears that will enable you to consolidate power. Things have of course gotten exponentially worse under Putin and his “successor” Medvedev.

So too has San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom been unceremoniously elbowed aside — eclipsed, as Maureen Dowd noted earlier this week — by old school forces that see him as the “gay marriage” one-trick pony. He might as well have acted the role of Superman: With apologies to Chaucer, The Reeves’ Tale  (George and Christopher Reeve(s), that is) did not end well for either guy.1 Newsom’s quest for the state house has stalled, despite his similar charm and good looks. According to this expansive and wise letter in today’s NY Times, it seems he can live with that:

From the moment we issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples six years ago, I knew we were beginning a long-term battle that would ultimately be taken up one day in courtrooms in California and Washington. The federal trial in San Francisco this month is the latest chapter in that battle and a logical result of the events that have unfolded since San Francisco wed more than 4,000 same-sex couples in 2004.

But victory in the fight for marriage equality is as much about changing people’s hearts and minds as about changing the law. That’s why we first married Phyllis Lyon and the late Del Martin, together for more than 50 years, to give a much-needed human face to the struggle for marriage equality.

In that sense, your article is correct that I have been “eclipsed” in the fight for marriage equality. Indeed, all of us, whether politician or lawyer or advocate, are eclipsed every day by the stories of Phyllis and Del and the thousands of same-sex couples who have married since 2004. Because the fight for marriage equality is about them — the men and women whose loving, committed relationships are still treated as unequal in the eyes of the law.

I have never been prouder of our decision in 2004 to defy California’s unjust marriage laws and do our part to carry the banner for civil rights. And we will never step back from our commitment to marriage equality until justice prevails in California and in our nation’s capital.

I met and interviewed Newsom some months ago. He’s a relaxed guy who makes everyone feel comfortable. Except, it appears, other politicians. As he steps aside, he unleashes this parting salvo against Obama (as related to Dowd):

I want him to succeed. But I am very upset by what he’s not done in terms of rights of gays and lesbians. I understand it tactically in a campaign, but at this point I don’t know. There is some belief that he actually doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage. But it’s fundamentally inexcusable for a member of the Democratic Party to stand on the principle that separate is now equal, but only on the basis of sexual orientation. We’ve always fought for the rights of minorities and against the whims of majorities.”

He said the promise of Obama sparking an “organic movement” has faded and “there’s a growing discontent and lack of enthusiasm that I worry about. He should just stand on principle, put this behind him and move on.”

What’s to add?

  1. The actual reeve of the Canterbury Tales was quite a nasty fellow.