Time's Puff Piece for San Francisco Mayor Newsom

Time magazine writer Michael Lindenberger's dispatch "From Gay Marriage's Ground Zero," read more like puffy campaign literature for the liberal Democratic mayor of San Francisco than an objective news piece.Here's how Lindenberger opened his paean to the thoroughly heterosexual Gavin Newsom.:

Same-sex couples began marrying late Monday night in courthouse ceremonies across California, putting triumphantly happy human faces on a debate that is nevertheless far from over. Crowds turned out to welcome - and, for some, to protest - weddings in Beverly Hills, Oakland and the wine country north of San Francisco.

Later in his piece, Lindenberger took at face value Newsom's recollection of how he decided in 2004 to challenge state law and grant marriage licenses to gay couples. Those "marriages" were later invalidated of course, but the recent decision by California's highest court paved the way for gay weddings, at least between now and November when a ballot initiative may outlaw same-sex marriage.Lindenberger dutifully transcribed Newsom's insistence that he didn't know how big a deal his civil disobedience would be:

Newsom told TIME he never expected to be in the middle of a fight for gay marriage. "Gay marriage was not on my radar. No one had asked me what I thought about it, and I had never really given it any thought one way or another." But the Bush State of the Union address changed all that. "I just felt deeply disconnected to my country, about which I care about very much. So I decided I'd make my stand by marrying one couple, and we decided [in 2004] we'd issue a marriage license for Phyllis and Del. Little did we know, we'd have 4,036 couples marry before it was over."

Really?! It wasn't until January 20, 2004 that Newsom gave any thought to gay marriage? After all, he is the mayor of perhaps the most alternative lifestyle-friendly city in the United States and the issue had already been percolating for years in some state courts and the halls of Congress.No, Newsom would have us believe, and Lindenberger failed to challenge the notion, that these two paragraphs towards the end of the 2004 State of the Union Address set Newsom off out of the blue:

A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as a union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states. Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.

But contrary to Newsom's protests that he acted out of conscience and not political expediency, Lindenberger later revealed Newsom's hope that the thousands of gay couples being "married" between now and November's ballot initiative on gay marriage will essentially shame voters into voting "no" on overturning the court ruling:

[I]t will be those weddings, Newsom told TIME, that will be gay-marriage supporters' best weapon in defeating the amendment. "There are some who just can't get over the idea, the image even, of two men kissing. But for most Californians, I think, if they just pause and think about what gay marriage means to the people they know, they won't want to take it away. The people getting married are your teachers, your neighbors, your cousins. They are the bus drivers, waiters and waitresses and your doctors. They are going to say, well, I never knew Doctor Bob was with his partner for 30 years. But you know, he is a good man, a good doctor. And this has made him just so happy."

As icing on the wedding cake, Lindenberger gave Newsom one last chance to give himself a gold star, noting how the engaged young mayor can sleep at night thanks to his work disobeying state law:

Come what may in November, Newsom says, he'll rest easy knowing he helped make weddings like the one he performed Monday as legal as the one he'll take part in next month, when he marries his girlfriend. "I'm extraordinarily proud of what we've accomplished. I'll sleep well because of this."
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters