by Amanda Witherell
Mayor Gavin Newsom in the Prop 8 spotlight. Photo by Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal
Mayor Gavin Newsom expressed equal awe over seeing an African American elected president of the United States and a ban on gay marriage in California. “First and foremost it was an extraordinary night last night…for the country…and for civil rights,” he said at a crowded city hall press conference on the day after the election. But when it came to the rights of another population, he lamented, “I never thought in my lifetime that I’d see a constitution changed to take rights away.” He expressed particular dismay that California, “a state that has always been on the leading edge,” has become “the first state in the history of this country to take rights away.”
“Because they did nothing except fall in love and say ‘I do,’” he repeated several times.
He pointed out that the 2008 victory of Prop 8 passed with a slimmer majority than the last attempt in 2000. “We are moving in the right direction,” he said. “Millions and millions of people said it’s wrong to take rights away from people.” And he remained upbeat: “It doesn’t make me proud but it doesn’t make me, in any way, shape, or form, pessimistic.”
With some stirring words he connected the history of social change in America to the gay rights movement, concluding, “Everyone deserves the same opportunities, the same privileges, as everyone else. Separate is not equal.” For different genders, races, and ethnicities the basis of equality is a founding principle in the constitution, which has now been altered. He maintained that opponents of Prop 8 will someday be on the right side of history. “How can we, in 2008, argue for a separate track based on sexual orientation?”
And he cautioned Prop 8 supporters. “Don’t be gleeful at the expense of human beings whose lives have been devastated.”
When questioned, Newsom expressed support for City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s efforts to invalidate Prop 8. This morning Herrera, along with city attorneys from Los Angeles and Santa Clara, filed a writ of mandate with the California Supreme Court, arguing “that the California Constitution's equal protection provisions do not allow a bare majority of voters to use the amendment process to divest politically disfavored groups of constitutional rights,” according to a press release.
Newsom cast off as “irrelevant” speculation that his run for governor would see some fallout from his vocal opposition to Prop 8, and said he hadn’t given much thought to what his continued advocacy for gay rights would be.