Beyond the Shadow of Gavin Newsom’s Hair

In the midst of SF’s last mayoral election, Gavin Newsom looked practically conservative opposite Matt Gonzalez. Newsom’s hair was too shellacked — shiny hair is usually a dead giveaway for a phony — and his musical tastes sounded flat compared to Gonzalez’ (next to hair, musical predilection is the most important barometer of political integrity). Now Newsom is spearheading civil disobedience on a mass scale.

I am an adamant supporter of gay marriage, and feel strongly that anything less than full marriage is a violation of civil rights. To deny full marriage rights to gays is to treat them like second class citizens. Because I feel that current law is morally wrong on this point, civil disobedience becomes an option.

But, unlike a protest, where an individual can go out and lock themselves to a tree or train track, homosexual couples cannot go out and get married to protest the moral bankruptcy of the system that disrespects their humanity. People can’t issue themselves marriage licenses. On the other hand, politicians can, and Newsom has.

But here’s the dilemma: Even though I agree that this act of civil disobedience by a politician is necessary, I also believe, for the most part, in the rule of law. The question is, should a politician be able to disobey the law on a mass scale because s/he disagrees with it?

Look what happens when the shoe is on the other foot, as it has been throughout Bush’s presidency. Start with this statement: “Pre-emptive war is illegal and immoral.” That did not stop Bush from invading Iraq and creating the current quaqmire. Thing is, you can examine examples of politicians not respecting the rule of law left and right and feel differently about each example depending on your own leanings and interpretations.

In my heart, I am bursting with respect for Newsom for taking these steps. He rocks. Gay marriage should not be a curiosity, should not even be an issue. It should simply be normal. It should always have been normal. There is no non-religion-based, rational argument to be made against gay marriage. It is long past time for this change, and if people like Newsom have to lay their figurative bodies across the train tracks to make it happen… I have so much respect for that.

But my head still tells me we need to be cautious of renegade politicians taking the law into their own hands. At the political level, I don’t see how I can reject Bush’s dismissal of the rule of law but simultaneously accept Newsom’s. At the personal level, it’s quite a different matter, because at the personal level we can take intentions and motivations into account, mitigating or overriding strict interpretations of law.

All I know is that right now I am exhilarated to see this issue gaining national momentum, being discussed, chewed on. It’s like a race now, to see whether Bush can amend the Constitution before the rest of the nation realizes that current prohibitions against gay marriage are the segregated South of the current era. Power to the people, right on.

Music: Ella Fitzgerald :: Miss Otis Regrets

36 Replies to “Beyond the Shadow of Gavin Newsom’s Hair”

  1. Im must disagree on the part of gay marriage. To allow this says its ok for gay couples to have families. I think this is wrong because any child brought up with gay parents wil;l have an unfair start in life. They will grow up believing that it is completely normal and fine to have sexual relationships with members of the same sex.

    If people where ment to be homosexual we would all be one gender. No matter what anyone says, gay people have issues, which may have been caused by a number of things, bad father, unhappy childhood, circumcision obsession, who knows. To allow them to influence an innocent child is wrong, it unfair to the kid.

    I have gay friends, they are normal people. That however dosent make it right.

  2. Sorry, Gambit, you might not even notice it, but people like you are the problem. You try to be nice by trying to explain gayness as ‘having issues’ – the “it’s not their fault” kind of tolerance – but you still don’t accept it.

    It would be a good thing if more kids would grow up considering homosexuality a normal and fine thing, because then people like you would literally cease to exist, and the whole problem around homosexuality would evaporate.

    Furthermore, kids are very perceptive and adaptable, and as long as the parents are good parents, their sexuality is really not a problem.

    And one more thing: if people were meant to be all heterosexual, why does homosexuality exist in the first place? And not just among humans, but in the animal kingdom as well?

    — Lars, being his blunt German self

  3. Gambit said:

    > To allow this says its ok for gay couples to have families. I think this is wrong because any child brought up with gay parents wil;l have an unfair start in life.

    Perhaps you meant to say that any child born into an unsupportive family will have an unfair start in life? Look around you — the world is full of people who grew up with inattentive parents, poor educations, lack of support. Kids born to heterosexual deadbeat dads, etc. I challenge anyone to find any evidence whatsoever that gay parents aren’t as good or better — statistically speaking — as hetero parents.

    > They will grow up believing that it is completely normal and fine to have sexual relationships with members of the same sex.

    Um, the whole point of all this is that it IS completely normal for people to have relationships with members of the same sex. How that is supposed to be damaging to a child is beyond me. So of COURSE support for gay marriage is also support for gay parenting.

    My point is that if this seems abhorrent or wrong to people, that reaction is the result of a cultural neurosis, and the result of religion and tradition, not the result of a rational approach to human sexuality.

    >If people where ment to be homosexual we would all be one gender.

    If you go down the “meant to” path, there is no stopping. We’re meant to spread uranium on our toast in the morning because it’s all natural. Our sex organs are meant for procreation so therefore there should be no sex for enjoyment (think about it: What percentage of hetero sex is for recreation vs. for procreation?) There is no question of what is “meant to be” – that is unanswerable. What is answerable is “what is right and fair, what is discrimination?” More clearly, can anyone come up with a rational, non-religious argument against gay marriage?

    > No matter what anyone says, gay people have issues,

    Oh boy. Here we go.

    > which may have been caused by a number of things, bad father, unhappy childhood, circumcision obsession, who knows. To allow them to influence an innocent child is wrong, it unfair to the kid.

    I don’t even know how to begin to respond to a generalization this sweeeping, misinformed, and wrong.

    Children should be influenced by loving parents. Period. The sexual preferences of the parents have no bearing whatsoever on the child – this has been studied to exhaustion.

    > I have gay friends, they are normal people. That however dosent make it right.

    I don’t know you and am therefore reluctant to challenge your word, but somehow I have a great deal of difficult believing that you have gay friends. I don’t know what kind of friendship could endure such fundamental misunderstanding and disrespect.

  4. “There is no non-religion-based, rational argument to be made against gay marriage.”

    The motivations behind this are obviously religious, but I believe that ultimately they are psychological. If we cover up the whole problem we won’t have to do the work of attending to our own neurotic fears.

  5. Actually, the Newsom supported gay marriage political protest is not against the law. So he and the people who participated are not breaking the law. The crux is that the marriage of gays and lesbians is not valid under law. So the act is merely symbolic,
    but significant nontheless.

  6. > But my head still tells me we need to be cautious of renegade politicians taking the law into their own hands. At the political level, I don’t see how I can reject Bush’s dismissal of the rule of law but simultaneously accept Newsom’s.

    I was about to write a clever paragraph or two teasing apart the difference between civil disobedience and selfish crime, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t know enough about this specific issue. So I educated myself.

    I have to say now that I lean more heavily toward the distrust side. I can’t even really understand why anybody would try to stop homosexual marriages (I mean I can’t get it at all), but I do think that this Newsom is making a mistake, a very bad one in fact. It’s beautiful and exciting and I share the enthusiasm, but, deep down…I’ve got a horrible sinking feeling.

    What if, for example, the next mayor doesn’t agree with his predecessor and does the exact same thing, or, worse, declares all prior same-sex licenses null and void? What moral ground would any opponents to such an action have then? Worse: what recourse?

    It looks to me like this is a politician who has subverted the political process for short term gain and poll boosts. Which is NO different from George Bush. The only difference in this case is that we happen to agree with the ends.

    But I think that’s a genie you don’t want to let out of the bottle.

  7. I’m sorry–but i still don’t understand why people feel this act is one of civil disobedience. It’s not breaking the law to enact a marriage between members of the same sex, even in a courthouse. It is simply not recognized as valid. So it is a symbolic act, not a disobedient one.

    Newsom is not running afoul of the law. At the worst he is engaging in futility. But obviously the point is to highlight the issue, not override the law. I’m sure Newsom’s many lawyers gave him the go-ahead on this one.

  8. Joshua, I’m no expert on this, but I would expect that there must be a law somewhere stating that you can’t license something that contravenes definition. State of Cal defines marriage as between a man and a woman, so how can legal licenses* be issued that don’t match the criteria for that license?

    * The key here is that a religious wedding ceremony is symbolic – the civic marriage is the legal one, i.e. the one that confers legal rights and privileges.

    Have you seen articles anywhere saying that these gay marriages are not illegal in the eyes of the state of california? That would be a very interesting development.

  9. “Joshua, I’m no expert on this, but I would expect that there must be a law somewhere stating that you can’t license something that contravenes definition.”

    That’s true–but you can’t be punished for it, unless there is a separate law which states that attempting to perform a marriage is punishable by law.

    I read a law professor’s comment in the newspaper to the effect that it is not illegal, it is simply not valid.

    That doesn’t change the situation at hand. Those pushing for marriage want marriage RIGHTS–they can have a million licenses, but they have no validity, therefore no rights that follow.

    That’s why they could perform this ceremony and not worry too much about the consequences. Elsewhere it will probably (but who knows in the end) be viewed as more evidence that SF is off the deep end. oh well. i wish we (nor cal) could secede.

  10. Marriage is a religious ceremony — let religion define it for its own adherants. The Episcopal Church has taken a radical step for a Chrisitan denomination. Other churches and religions may choose their own path.

    To codify a religeous ceremony in common law is not appropriate.

    There is greater danger in President Bush’s threats to amend the Constitution than the subject of civil gay unions, but in the encroatchment of church upon state (and vice versa).

    This is just the beginning of a much greater struggle — one that will explode if an attempt to alter the Constitution is made…

  11. On Gambit’s webpage he writes:

    “I have the attitude that girls are there for one reason, to please men and that is it.”

    My only response is to put on a park ranger hat and say: “Welcome to the National Internet Preserve Park. Please enjoy your stay. Do not leave your vehicle, do not litter, and please do not feed the trolls.”

  12. Gilbert and Mark, this is a fascinating perspective you raise – that we wouldn’t be asking whether gay marriage should be legal if marriage weren’t a matter of legality to begin with. What business is it of the government whether anyone is married? More importanly, why are married people given all kinds of tax incentives? It’s as if government would prefer that you’re married than not. Why? Why should government care?

    The problem is, you’re looking too deeply beyond the veil — IOTW as radical as it is to suggest that gay marriage be legalized, it’s even more radical to suggest that government butt out of marriage altogether. It makes so much sense, but the practical ramifications are immense (unlike gay marriage, where the practical ramifications are nil).

    I think this is the first time a radical libertarian perspective has really resonated for me, although I’m driven back to the same conclusion as always: The libertarians are more idealistic (and thus less realistic) than hippies or anyone else.

  13. Gambit said: >
    Scot said: >>
    Gambit then said: >>>

    >To allow this says its ok for gay couples to have families. I think this is
    wrong because any child brought up with gay parents wil;l have an unfair start
    in life.

    >>Perhaps you meant to say that any child born into an unsupportive family
    will have an unfair start in life? Look around you — the world is full of
    people who grew up with inattentive parents, poor educations, lack of
    support. Kids born to heterosexual deadbeat dads, etc. I challenge anyone to
    find any evidence whatsoever that gay parents aren’t as good or better —
    statistically speaking — as hetero parents.

    >>>I Agree with you , a child with an unsupportive family will indeed have an unfair start on life. Agreed, the world is full of terrible parents. Gay parents may well do a better job than a heterosexual man fine, but the behavior of parents does in-fact influence a child and the person they will grow up to be. If the kid with gay parents grows up to be gay, would it have been his choice? or an imprinting from his parents?

    >>>Think about his ridicule in school. Kids: “Jack has a daddy and a daddy, freak”, or “where did you come out Jack, your daddies bum”, or “Cindy why does your mom never wear a dress, O I forgot she’s a man” , or Teacher: “Give this news letter to your mom and dad kids” and Jack thinks to himself, “I have no mom”.

    >>>The above may seem harsh, but kids are capable of much worse.
    Scot no matter what way you look at it, this WILL affect a child.

    >They will grow up believing that it is completely normal and fine to have
    sexual relationships with members of the same sex.

    >>Um, the whole point of all this is that it IS completely normal for people
    to have relationships with members of the same sex. How that is supposed to
    be damaging to a child is beyond me. So of COURSE support for gay marriage
    is also support for gay parenting.

    >>My point is that if this seems abhorrent or wrong to people, that reaction
    is the result of a cultural neurosis, and the result of religion and
    tradition, not the result of a rational approach to human sexuality.

    >>>Scot, religion and tradition make us who we are. Religion is here for a reason and it was given to us by god, you know the person that made us all. Religion does influence our lives in many ways. If one person murders another in the heat of passion and people condemn it. Is that to say that it is the result of religion and tradition and not a rational approach to human emotion?

    >If people where ment to be homosexual we would all be one gender.

    >>If you go down the “meant to” path, there is no stopping. We’re meant to
    spread uranium on our toast in the morning because it’s all natural. Our
    sex organs are meant for procreation so therefore there should be no sex
    for enjoyment (think about it: What percentage of hetero sex is for
    recreation vs. for procreation?) There is no question of what is “meant to
    be” – that is unanswerable. What is answerable is “what is right and fair,
    what is discrimination?” More clearly, can anyone come up with a rational,
    non-religious argument against gay marriage?

    >>>I know that sex is not only used for procreation among heterosexuals. Sex purely for the sake of recreation among heterosexuals is wrong. Sex is not only about procreation or recreation, its about sharing ones self with another person because we love them and the result of this love is the greatest gift two people can achieve, the creation of life. Gay sex no matter how much humping you do, can never create life. (Gerbils don’t count)

    >No matter what anyone says, gay people have issues,

    >>Oh boy. Here we go.

    >which may have been caused by a number of things, bad father, unhappy
    childhood, circumcision obsession, who knows. To allow them to influence an
    innocent child is wrong, it unfair to the kid.

    >>I don’t even know how to begin to respond to a generalization this
    sweeeping, misinformed, and wrong.

    >>Children should be influenced by loving parents. Period. The sexual
    preferences of the parents have no bearing whatsoever on the child – this
    has been studied to exhaustion.

    >>>Let me get this right you have no “issues” what so ever? Face it Scot, you do, don’t lie to yourself dude. I work in the entertainment industry and have met many gay people and not one of them is emotionally sound. I’ve spent many an hour consoling gay friends.

    >>>As for sexual preference of parents having no influence on children, it is incorrect. Gay people tend to be depression prone and do have emotional problems which could and probably would effect their children.

    >>>No don’t bring it up that heterosexual parents may also have emotional problems, blah blah blah… They may, yes, however the chances are much less and the permanency of their emotional problems is finite, unlike homosexuals.

    >I have gay friends, they are normal people. That however dosent make it right.

    >>I don’t know you and am therefore reluctant to challenge your word, but
    somehow I have a great deal of difficult believing that you have gay
    friends. I don’t know what kind of friendship could endure such fundamental
    misunderstanding and disrespect.

    >>>Scot, I do indeed have gay friends, some of which I’m fond of (shocking hey). Its not wrong to be gay, but it IS wrong to act on it.

  14. Lars said:>

    >It would be a good thing if more kids would grow up considering homosexuality a normal and fine thing, because then people like you would literally cease to exist, and the whole problem around homosexuality would evaporate.

    If more people thought homosexuality was “normal”, then people like YOU would cease to exist. There would be no more pro-creation.

    >And one more thing: if people were meant to be all heterosexual, why does homosexuality exist in the first place? And not just among humans, but in the animal kingdom as well?

    Regarding the gay animal comment: Humans are meant to be above animals and here you are comparing yourself to them. The only time animals turn queer is when there is something fucked up in the environment. It is by no means normal.

  15. Scot said:
    Gilbert and Mark, this is a fascinating perspective you raise – that we wouldn’t be asking whether gay marriage should be legal if marriage weren’t a matter of legality to begin with. What business is it of the government whether anyone is married? More importanly, why are married people given all kinds of tax incentives? It’s as if government would prefer that you’re married than not. Why? Why should government care?

    Scot, reading this I was suddenly able to understand the language the anti-gay-marriage people in this country keep using: “defense of marriage.” Perhaps because legal marriage is a state supported religious institution, some people are worried that this is all headed towards an actual dissolution of the laws giving married couples advantages over everyone else.

  16. Scot, I’ve thought about your “rule of law” argument for a long time, and I don’t think it applies here. A marriage license is essentially a civil document, and its validity depends on who accepts it as valid. If I decide to start issuing marriage licenses tomorrow, no one may recognize them as valid — but I’m not harming anyone by doing it, either. The courts recognized this and that’s why they refused to stop SF from doing the marriages yesterday.

    Think of marriage licenses as comparable to the DNS system. There doesn’t need to be one central registry, just a general agreement on what the valid registry is. And outliers are OK — if I want to set up a parallel naming system, I can coexist with DNS as long as I can persuade people to go along with my directory. Same with marriage licenses.

    Maybe these marriage licenses won’t be valid in Washington DC, or even in Sacramento — but if they’re valid for, say, establishing domestic partner benefits from a company, or if they help someone get into a hospital during visiting hours to sit by the side of a sick spouse, then the marriage is valid. And I suspect there are a lot of people out here who are willing to recognize these marriages as legit, no matter what the smallminded and coldhearted jerks in D.C. think.

    BTW, Gavin Newsom deserves credit for putting this into motion — but the real heroes are Mabel Teng and her staff, who kept the office open all weekend, recruited volunteers, and made over 2,000 marriages happen!

  17. You can conduct all the weddings you want, but “marriage” is defined as the relationship between a man and a woman. How can a “marriage” license be valid when the definition of “marriage” isn’t even met? Who made the mayor of San Francisco judge, jury, and legislature in this matter. He is in office to enforce all the laws, not just those he likes and he is in no position to interpret the laws as Mayor.

  18. Scott Brooks – Two parts to the answer:

    1) Clearly the legal definition of “marriage” needs redefining, as it is discriminatory. So rather than worrying about what meets the definition of marriage, we should be concerned with working out a more fair and inclusive definition of marriage. A black man used to be defined as 3/5 of a man. We fixed that, we can fix this too.

    2) The law is not as unambiguous as you suggest — The California Constitution guarantees equal protection for all. So what we’re seeing here is a conflict between the Constitution and a particular statue. This is what needs working out.

  19. If the legal definition of marriage is the union between a man and a woman and a gay person can legally marry a member of the opposite sex, no one’s rights are being infringed upon or denied.

    If the definition is changed to be all inclusive, then it’s a case of ‘minority rule’. I see no reason to think that’s any better than majority rule.

  20. Ack, I agree with Libertarians!

    I’m not so sure that this position is so idealistic. Idealism, while based in common sense (pollution is bad) usually expects universal conformidy (no one should litter) to work, which is un-realistic. Removing marriage from common law is based in common sense (based in seperation of Church and State), but does not expect universal conformidy. Rather, it removes the un-realistic expectation of universal conformidy thereby making it more grounded than idealistic notions.

  21. Scott Brooks: Your logic escapes me. Are you really suggesting that because a gay person can marry a member of the *opposite* sex, that that person’s rights to love and marry whom they wish are intact? Sorry, I’m baffled by that little contortion.

    Instead of talking about rights, perhaps it would be more accurate to talk about rewards. Why does the U.S. government financially reward heteros for getting married, but not allow gays to marry, thus denying them the same rewards as everyone else?

    Re: Minority/majority — naturally the goal is to convince the majority that this is a human rights issue. And in fact some polls show that the majority of people do favor gay marriage. For example:

    http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,61982,00.html?tw=wn_story_top5

    While others show a different picture:

    http://www.npr.org/display_pages/features/feature_1567690.html

    I think that the longer this issue is on American minds, the more people will realize that current the current definition of marriage is bigoted and unfair, and will be willing to see it changed.

  22. Dylan, very good points about the essential validity of a license being a function of who recognizes that validity. Although I would not like to worry that my marriage was only valid where people were voluntarily sympathetic to it.

    I’m becoming more interested in this distinction between “rights” and “rewards” – marriage is really more about the latter – and we have a constitutional obligation to confer equal rewards to equal people. Is marriage really a right in the same way that free speech is a right?

  23. Scot wrote:
    >Is marriage really a right in the same way that free speech is a right?

    Yup. See your Constitution, Amendments I, IX, and XIV, particularly the latter:

    “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    …Unless gay people aren’t “persons” (or marriages don’t concern persons) I can’t see how you can get around that and still deny the privileges of marriage.

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  25. Married people are a large constituent in the US and politicians offer rewards to that group to get their vote. George W. is against gay marriage because he wants the religious right vote. It would be very interesting what the marriage issue would be like if politics weren’t involved.

  26. So Bush thinks that two men who love eachother and who marry is a threat to the “institution” of marriage yet he’s not worried about two drunk a-holes who marry in Vegas then get annulled the next day. Or he’s not worried about 50% of marriages end in divorce. He’s using this to get elected and it’s wrong. I HOPE HE LOSES BADLY IN NOVEMBER AND THE DEMOCRATS RETAKE CONGRESS!

  27. i personally don’t see a problem with scott brooks’ logic. don’t like it, but don’t see a flaw. All he’s saying is that IF you ahve a law allowing two classes of individual to enter into a certain contract with each other, then as long as you don’t disallow a member of class A to enter into contract wiht a member of class B, there is no infringement of rights. no flaw there. (ok, he offers additional commentary, but the one point seems ok to me)

    the difficulty arrises because of a difference in opinion re: a) what the law/right IS (is it as stated, a law only applicable between members of two different classes)? b) whether or not it’s just to HAVE a law that divides people into separate classes for the sake of contracts.

    anyway, that’s just a nitpick. my main concern touches on other points mentioned above: marriage started out as a religious institution. and i think it should stay a religious institution. I think all state sanctioning of “marriage” should be redefined as a sanctioning of “civil union” or whatever, and all state sanctioned marriage licenses retroactively converted to certificates or licences of civil union. that way people who think that, because of their religious beliefs or otherwise, that marriage is definitively between a male and a female can enforce that in the one forum where it makes sense, and everyone else can have all the state sanctioned civil union (nee marriage) benefits without offending anyone’s sensibility of what defines marriage.

    simple, init?

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