Gay Blades Come Out Again: The cultural war over gay marriage has suddenly re-emerged nationally, setting the stage for volatile political developments in California when the Prop. 8 decision comes down between now and June.
Last Friday’s decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that found unconstitutional a state ban on same-sex marriage was followed within days by enactment of a pro-gay marriage law in Vermont and passage of another in the District of Columbia. All this could push the issue directly before Congress, as similar measures move ahead in New York and other states.
The flurry of activity triggered an all-hands-alert among religious foes of gay marriage, led by an outfit called the National Organization for Marriage, which rushed to air in California and other key states a dubious TV spot that uses paid actors to mouth lines of supposedly real people whose purported lives are about to be allegedly disrupted by “The Gathering Storm.” (And for a good spoof of the ad, try this.)
Foes of Prop. 8 meanwhile are sniffing defeat in court and planning mass demonstrations if the California Supremes uphold the initiative ban on gay marriage passed last November. The court has until June 3 to issue its ruling.
All of which complicates the lives of the candidates for governor. After months of mouthing platitudes about the green economy, as all-recession-all-the-time stories blanketed the news cycle, wannabes now face the unpleasant prospect of getting whipsawed between two highly motivated enemy camps: ardent progressive and gay activists demanding civil rights for all versus impassioned conservative evangelicals and other churched groups, fiercely intent on protecting their most sacred values from doom.
SF Mayor Gavin Newsom may be buffeted the most. In a Democratic primary in which liberal voters have an outsize influence, the marriage issue may help Newsom, whose biggest claim to fame to date is ordering S.F. bureaucrats to issue marriage licenses to gays. It also reinforces his strength with younger voters who are bemused by all the fuss their elders make about who sleeps with whom.
But just when Newsom is trying to introduce himself in Southern California as a model of innovative and effective leadership, he once again will be associated with a polarized issue that promptly reinforces his political roots in a city known for its ultra-liberal values. Much worse for him, though, is the now-famous “whether you like it or not” clip, which shows him as an arrogant young man, blithely dismissive of the 50% of Californians who disagree with him. Net effect: Negative.
Jerry Brown, who used his powers as attorney general to oppose the voter-approved Prop. 8 before the Supreme Court, thereby blunts any major gains Newsom might otherwise reap from the issue in the primary. Beyond that, anybody who’s strongly against gay marriage isn’t bloody likely to be for Jerry Brown in any case. Net: Wash.
Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman, two moderate Republicans trying to masquerade as true-believer conservatives to court right-wing GOP primary voters, will both come under new scrutiny and pressure to bow to the Christian right on this and other social issues.* The whole exercise will underscore for California Republican Assembly types that they don’t yet have a real horse in the race. Net: Negative.
As General-Governor-Mayor-Chairman-Secretary Brown told us when we asked him about the issue: “Politicians don’t like 50% issues – they’re looking for 80% issues” . . .
Big Foot Watch: You know your home state governor’s race is gonna be fun when the New York Times lets one of its best, brightest and sharpest writers journey west to gather string for a piece on the future of politics in California. That’s wussup with our old pal Mark Leibovich, formerly of the San Jose Mercury News, who’s coming to the Golden State soon. In case you aren’t familiar with Mark, he’s the guy who so deftly filleted Hardballer Chris Matthews, ex of the S.F. Examiner, in the NYT magazine that Chris himself dined out on the piece . . .
Hacks to Flacks: The list of California political journos fleeing newspapers to jump to the other side is growing. Latest is Mary Anne Ostrom, who hangs it up after 21 years at the Merc News to work as an adviser to Whitman for “policy, communications and online outreach.” She tells calbuzz that it’s “not just the dire state of newspapers. I crave a change (and) I’ve always been curious about the inner workings of a campaign.” Ostrom joins ex-S.F.Chronicle WashBuroMan Zach Coile, who jumped ship to mouthpiece for US Sen. Barbara Boxer . . .
We’re just sayin: First challenge for our old colleague Mary Anne: Do something about the insipid “Ask Meg” clips on the campaign’s slick web site, which include fluff like eMeg saying that the secret to fixing education is to “set ourselves a goal of being No. 1 again.” Or maybe do something about Meg’s vapid Tweets (“In Silicon Valley working today!”). Like make her stop, already.
* Although, as we have noted before and Bill Bradley notes in his comment, Whitman strongly opposed Prop. 8 during the campaign