Blame the Bigots Behind Prop 8

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on October 20, 2008

There’s been much ado about a quote from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom that Christian bigots in California are using in one of their “Yes on 8” (anti-gay marriage) television ads. In a rare moment of passion after the state Supreme Court judges granted queers the right to tie the knot, Newsom cried, “The door’s wide open now … it’s going to happen … whether you like it or not.”

It was a perfectly fine thing to say. Any activist would have said it. Newsom’s handlers at the SF Chronicle, who have promoted his political career since his days as a do-nothing member of the Board of Supervisors, think that he went too far. They say he should have toned it down.

“A man who wants to be Governor should realize that what draws raucous cheers at City Hall does not necessarily play in Redlands or Redding,” wrote John Diaz, editorial page editor of the Chronicle, a gay marriage supporter.

Diaz also believes that Newsom gave the right-wingers added ammunition when he officiated over the controversial wedding of a teacher and her long-term partner. The teacher’s kids decided to surprise her and show up at the wedding. They skipped school, with permission from their parents, of course. Gavin didn’t even know they were going to be there.

Said a Yes on 8 spokesman, “It underscores what we’ve been saying: That children as young as kindergartners are going to be taught in public schools that same-sex marriage is no different than traditional marriage.”

Well, it’s not. Why shouldn’t kids be taught that marriage is marriage. Why not spare them the fate of being lifelong bigots and gay-bashers? Or closeted politicians or clergy sneaking around to get a little same-sex loving on the side.

During the dot-com boom, when thousands of tenants were being displaced (something the Chronicle didn’t care to write about), I spoke passionately at rallies against those evictions. My most famous quote: “We should melt the gold from the dome of City Hall and use the money to build affordable housing.”

My speeches earned me a nickname among landlord advocates: “Tommi the commie.” They even landed me into two documentaries (Boom: the Sound of Evictions and See How They Run). It’s a good thing I wasn’t running for Governor.

In the old days, right-wing Christians used to come to pride marches and photograph the drag queens and the leather boys and use their pics in their sensationalistic mailings. Freaked out queers would say, “Oh, we shouldn’t allow the drag queens and the leather boys to be in the parade, they’re hurting our cause.” We should let bigots dictate what we can wear to our own pride celebrations?

It’s not Gavin Newsom’s fault that conservative Christians are using his great quote to promote their brand of intolerance. It’s also not the parents fault that their wonderful surprise to a beloved teacher has become a national issue.

It’s the right-wing Christian bigotry and intolerance that put Prop 8 on the ballot in the first place. That’s the problem.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical southern Italian atheist queer with a website: www.avicollimecca.com

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