Gavin Newsom is California’s lieutenant governor. He used to be mayor of San Francisco. He is pretty. A long time ago, before today’s Supreme Court ruling invalidating Prop 8 (which we will have a post on EVENTUALLY, SNIPY), we wrote a thing. We are stealing it for you wholesale!
How can you write about Gavin Newsom (D–Funkytown) without sounding like Maureen Dowd? How can you separate San Francisco’s mayor from his status as heterosexiest man alive? You can’t even think about that tall drink of man without conjuring up his six-foot-three inches, and his voice, rougher and raspier than a cat’s tongue, and his Edwardsian perfect coif. Men want to be him; women want to slip him a mickey. It would be so much easier if Gavin Newsom looked like Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, who is old and sports a kind of John Boehner tan and somehow resembles an unsexy version of Old Handsome Joe Biden.
Do you remember the morning in 2004 when Gavin Newsom announced that gay men and women could come to San Francisco City Hall, and they could pledge their lives and hearts and bodies to one another, just like they were real live people? I remember. I wept — sobbed — as I looked at the morning papers filled with above-the-fold photos of beautiful couples smiling shy-and-tenderly. I cried when I read that out-of-town folks could buy flowers from area florists to deliver to whichever ecstatic pairs were hanging out in line on the City Hall steps. I like to think I sent some flowers too, but it may be one of those false memories, like people who claim they were at Woodstock and actually believe it.
It was marvelous, and it went on and on, and the young mayor of New Paltz in upstate New York caught the fever and started marrying people too, and it was all so grand and imbued with the most beautiful civil disobedience (the mayor of New Paltz, Jason West, actually faced criminal charges filed against him by the local prosecutor for solemnizing marriages for people without licenses) until the California Supreme Court stepped in and annulled the marriages that San Francisco had consecrated.
Many blamed Newsom for the sad passage of Prop 8, when gay marriage opponents aired an ad that showed him laughing that gay marriage would eventually come to be “whether you like it or not.” Prop 8 overturned the California Supreme Court’s decision, four years after annulling San Francisco’s marriage licenses, that ruled that keeping marriage from gay men and women violated their civil rights. (The opinion was written by Chief Justice Ronald George, a Republican.) Many blamed the black community. But as far as I can tell, the only people to blame for the terrible victory of Prop 8 were the No on 8 campaign staff themselves. They refused to show any actual gay couples, or any actual gay families, and used instead a vague, confusing message based on “taking away rights” that never even used the words gay marriage. (Until all the way at the end of the campaign, when Mr. Samuel L. Jackson narrated a commercial that referenced, as it should have all along, California laws that banned black people and Latinos from marrying whites and the no-brainer that discrimination is wrong; it wasn’t until 1967 that the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional.) If the No on 8 numbskulls believed they had to hide what they were trying to sell, that they had to somehow trick people into approving gay marriage, that gay marriage was too dirty and divisive to behold, then how could they expect anyone else to embrace it?
What California lost is now law in Massachusetts and Iowa, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine (for a minute anyway; their No on Gay Marriage folks are using our No on Gay Marriage folks’ playbook to the letter), and what Gavin Newsom imagined has been made real. I love me some single-payer healthcare, and I love the Kyoto treaty, and I love all manner of other good progressive happy things, but this is the one. He did this. He didn’t jump on anyone else’s bandwagon; he built the bandwagon from the ground up. He’s not just handsome (so, allegedly, was Dan Quayle). He’s more than just a pretty face. Even if it is one you’d really want to sit on.