Gavin Newsom on Obama’s Support For Same-Sex Marriage: Don’t Underestimate Political Risk

KQED’s Cy Musiker talked to Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom today about President Obama’s interview on Good Morning America in which he came out for the first time in support of same-sex marriage.

Edited transcript after the audio.

:http://ww2.kqed.org/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2012/05/gavinnewsom1.mp3|titles=gavinnewsom

GAVIN NEWSOM: I like the direction he’s evolved. I’ve seen other people devolve. This is a huge leap forward in terms of equality and rights to be extended to gay and lesbian couples and their family members, and it’s a point of real courage. This is the first time a sitting president in history uttered the words ‘I support same sex marriage.’ And to do it just months out from, what by any objective analysis will be a very close presidential campaign, is something that’s not lost on me and I hope millions of others that were not convinced he would come out as forceful as he did today.

MUSIKER: There’s already people making that calculation, that this was a calculated political decision. To get some supporters, especially people with a lot of money in California, to get off their hands and start supporting him more forcefully.

NEWSOM: I don’t buy that in this respect: at the end of the day he had that base of support pretty overwhelmingly. He’s going to have the biggest fundraiser in the history of American politics and I don’t exaggerate, tomorrow night in L.A. And that was with his previous point of view, that he’s evolving on the issue of marriage equality.

This is a huge risk. Our base of support, Dems and those that are supporting and fighting for LGBT rights, are very appreciative that he’d done more on the issue of marriage equality already — not defending DOMA, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, his appointments — this now puts him over the edge and creates a little more enthusiasm, but it also creates enthusiasm for his opponents and especially those who have the knives out that know how to run a campaign like Karl Rove with those super PACs, with these swing districts in these swing states. One should never underestimate the risk the president’s taken in terms of his own political peril in those key swing states. I didn’t in many respects expect this, I was long hoping for this, I’ve been pushing and prodding for many years and I couldn’t be more thrilled and proud of my president, our president, and proud to be as strong a support of ever.

MUSIKER: Back in 2004 you defied state law and ordered your city clerk to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Do you feel that was a snowball that grew into an avalanche?

NEWSOM: I like to think it had some impact, but good and bad, I’m not naive. I certainly think we made it easier for other politicians and gave them a little more courage to move past domestic partnership discussions to civil unions, which is a safe bet to the presidents actions today and previous actions by Martin O’Malley and Andrew Cuomo, in Maryland and New York.

The one thing I think we did do substantively in 2004 is we put a human face on the issue of discrimination. That this was not an abstract issue. And we brought that to light in people’s TV sets. The thing that was remarkable in February and March of 2004 is how unremarkable it was. There were no images that could be exploited, none of those images we’ve come to expect by those who wants to vilify the gay community, because it was about mothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and brothers and the like that had come together and expressed their love out loud. And that was a powerful wake-up call to a lot of Americans that the gay and lesbian community are our neighbors and our friends and bus drivers and fighter pilots in Iraq, and I think ultimately that’s what’s going to move this dial and humanize it.

A history of same-sex marriage in California.

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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