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Did Gavin Newsom Sacrifice His Career for Gay Rights? by Michael A. Jones

In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was considered one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party. Forget talk of being Governor -- there was talk of even one day seeing a President Newsom. He was young, well-funded, and had a history of being a successful businessman. And it only helped that the world thought he was pretty fine to look at, too.

But then, immediately after the State of the Union address in 2004, Gavin Newsom made the bold move to try and recognize same-sex marriages in San Francisco. The move made him a hero to LGBT people the country, if not the world, over. But the support he had among the Democratic Party establishment? Well, it may have just come toppling all around him.

Earlier this week, Newsom spoke to Maureen Dowd, and drew a roadmap of his political popularity over the past few years. If you listen to Newsom, you get the sense that the point at which his popularity started to fall was when he made the decision to champion same-sex marriage, suggesting that the Democratic Party punished him for being ahead of the curve on marriage equality.

 

According to Newsom, the second he moved to recognize same-sex marriage in San Francisco, Democratic Party activists stopped calling him up, and started avoiding San Francisco for fear of being associated with a radical gay rights mayor.

"Life was really good, and then it came crashing down. ‘You’re not going to be speaking at the convention. We overbooked.’ And then it becomes the house of cards with the Democrats excusing themselves from visits to this city and being in the same room with me," said Newsom.

Makes you kinda want to scream bloody murder at the Democrats, doesn't it? Sure, the problems that Newsom faced in growing his profile beyond San Francisco were certainly larger than just the issue of gay marriage. But it's clear that marriage equality played some part in it, whether it was in getting him denied a speaking spot at the 2004 Democratic convention, or earning him the wrath (at the time) of politicians like then Presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, or even Barack Obama (then a U.S. Senate candidate) who asked not to have any pictures taken with Gavin Newsom during a 2004 fundraiser for fear of creating a toxic connection between the Obama brand and gay marriage lovers.

Of course, Newsom ended up being on the right side of history. Though his political future is a huge unknown, it's almost a guarantee that no Democrat will be able to run for statewide office in California without supporting marriage equality. It may even be the case that once Obama wraps up his tenure as the Democrats' standard bearer, no Democrat will be able to run nationally without at least supporting a state's right to legalize same-sex marriage.

So while President Newsom or Governor Newsom may not end up on business cards soon, it's clear that Newsom's role in framing one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our time has been a big one. Maybe he sacrificed a larger political career because of it. But being on the right side of fighting discrimination might just be worth it.

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Tags: gavin newsom, lgbtq / gender & sexual minorities
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