Worked Like a Dog

Poodle Sifts Through Ashes of Prop. 8’s Defeat

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
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REMEMBERING NOT TO FORGET: Sometimes, we are told, a cigar is just a cigar. At the same time, we are reminded, there’s no such thing as a coincidence. I now find myself caught in the crossfire between these two opposing notions when it comes to City Hall’s “Wizard of Odd” float in this year’s Summer Solstice extravaganza. In it, Mayor Helene Schneider marched up State Street dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, lip-syncing the words to “Over the Rainbow,” as Judy Garland ​— ​the real Dorothy ​— ​sang the words over loudspeakers. Schneider and her fellow councilmembers ​— ​dressed as the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man ​— ​not to mention City Administrator Jim Armstrong as the Wizard himself ​— ​all marched under an archway of balloons arranged to resemble the pattern of a rainbow. Normally I don’t go looking for subliminal body language, but this poked me in the eye: the mayor “singing” the national anthem of the gay pride movement while marching under the flag of the gay pride movement. And all this just three days before the Supreme Court was set to issue two of the most important rulings on the subject of gay and lesbian rights ever. Wow, I thought, what a playfully bold statement from a council not known for being either. Naturally, I assumed Schneider was behind it all. She, after all, had been banging the gong for gay marriage since 2000 when she lead the charge in town against Proposition 22, which changed state law to ban same-sex marriages. When courts quickly decreed Prop. 22 unconstitutional, marriage extremists set out to rewrite the constitution. To that end, they passed Prop. 8, which last week, the Supremes dispatched to the dustbin of history.

Angry Poodle

Given S.B.’s long tradition of rigid discretion on matters of sexual orientation, I was thrilled by City Hall’s errant enthusiasm. I would be told afterward ​— ​by all parties concerned ​— ​that I was seeing things that just weren’t there. Maybe so. But maybe not. This is the same City Hall, after all, that former mayor Harriet Miller ran with an iron fist for seven years. It’s worth remembering that Miller’s life partner of many decades, Elizabeth, happened to be a woman. They lived together; they moved from town to town together. And when Elizabeth became ill, Harriet nursed her, comforted her, and ultimately buried her. But Miller would insist to the very end she was not a lesbian. She and Elizabeth, she would insist to anyone with the temerity to intrude, were sisters. Local gay activists talked about “outing” Harriet, but quickly thought better of it. No one messed with Harriet. She was too tough.

Now that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage in California, what seemed unthinkably impossible suddenly became inevitable. But it wasn’t always that way. And even in S.B., the closet can be a dark place, indeed. I remember getting called by Tom Roberts, then the first openly gay man to run for City Council, asking if I really had to mention he was openly gay in an upcoming news article. I did. Roberts’ work as a gay rights advocate was not incidental to his political identity; it was essential to it. In spite of this, because of it, or both, Roberts won. When Texas billionaire Michael Huffington moved to S.B. to buy a Congressional seat in 1992 and then a Senate seat two years later, there was no shortage of reasons to recoil. He was a rich, spoiled carpetbagger. His still infamous wife, Arianna Huffington, was a harridan shape-shifter of the first order. And he was a total cipher. But fueling the hatred right-wing Republicans had for Huffington was their conviction he was gay. Because of this ​— ​at least in part ​— ​they actively conspired with Democrat movers and shakers to make sure Democrat Dianne Feinstein got reelected. He lost by the narrowest of margins and later came out, first as gay, and then later as bisexual. In 1996, when liberal Democrat Walter Capps was running for Congress, I was given strict instructions by his campaign manager not to broach the issue of gay rights with him. The issue was too hot, the outcome too close. If I did, I was told the interview would be over. Capps, to his credit, was never good at being handled and raised the issue himself. Somehow, in spite of his support for gay rights, he managed to win. Even a staunch liberal feminist like Hannah-Beth Jackson would encounter significant turbulence over the issue. Ten years ago, when still in the Assembly, Jackson abstained on a bill that would effectively extend full marriage rights to couples already enrolled in domestic partnerships. Jackson ​— ​then a major advocate of such partnerships ​— ​balked, arguing it would set back the cause to pursue a bill doomed to failure and designed only to inflame the opposition. Many of Jackson’s supporters in the gay and lesbian community, however, felt betrayed and took to picketing outside of her Assembly offices. Those fences have since been mended. Perhaps the most tragic political victim of The Closet was Diana Hall, the former North County prosecutor and judge who was arrested on domestic-violence and drunk-driving charges after her life partner, Deidra Dykeman, threatened ​— ​for the umpteenth time ​— ​to out her. Hall and Dykeman owned a home together; they owned dogs together. But Hall desperately feared she’d be unseated as judge if North County voters knew she was lesbian. But even after winning reelection in 2002 ​— ​trouncing a North County prosecutor fired for having porn on his office computer ​— ​Hall still clung to the closet. This caused serious tension with her partner, out of which came the altercation, the 9-1-1 call, and the charges against Hall. The irony is that North County voters, so allegedly intolerant, had no trouble with judge “Bobby” Beck, a famously brusque, no-nonsense judge who everyone correctly assumed was a lesbian.

Given this history, little wonder the Powers That Be would deny City Hall’s Solstice float signified anything but a fun frolic. In a don’t-ask, don’t-tell universe, that’s exactly what they’d have to say. If I were them, I’d say, “Ding-dong, the witch is dead.” And I’d celebrate by smoking a cigar.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

"en years ago, when still in the Assembly, Jackson abstained on a bill that would effectively extend full marriage rights to couples already enrolled in domestic partnerships. Jackson ​— ​then a major advocate of such partnerships ​— ​balked, arguing it would set back the cause to pursue a bill doomed to failure and designed only to inflame the opposition. Many of Jackson’s supporters in the gay and lesbian community, however, felt betrayed and took to picketing outside of her Assembly offices. Those fences have since been mended. "

Actually the wound just reopened, thanks for the history refresher. How about a public apology?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 12:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's despicable to play politics with people's lives and cowardly to do so out of fear of offending the opposition!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 12:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Jackson never apologized and in one article she labeled people who challenged her lack of support for gay civil unions (not even marriage) "radical fringe" and "virulent".

whosecityisthis2012 (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 8:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Didn't know that about Harriet Miller. Too bad circumstances didn't allow the mayor and her partner to be more comfortable in their own skins. We make so much political hay about silly things.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 10:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I was also unaware of Harriet, and interpreted the Wizard of OZ theme as a covert reference to Wizard Jim Armstrong, but Nick's right re the LGBT reference - it couldn't have been subconsciously ignored. I disagree re Diana Hall; her sexual orientation seems to have been exploited in an unrelated attack. According to Gary Dunlap, when Hall refused to change her ruling in Sneddon's favour, Sneddon brought bogus charges against her, ruined her career and publicly humiliated her by exposing that she was a lesbian. When it became apparent to Sneddon that Hall would be a witness in the Gary Dunlap case, he threatened to bring more charges against her. On September 29, 2003, Hall was acquitted on charges of battery but eight months later found herself accused of violating campaign laws. On January 16th, 2004, she showed up at Michael Jackson's arraignment because she wanted to see how Judge Rodney S. Melville handled motions. Hall told reporters: "I'm not being treated well. This has ruined my reputation, and I'm just not going to take it any longer. Gary Dunlap ran for DA against Sneddon, who charged Dunlap with perjury, witness intimidation, filing false documents and preparing false documents in a case that Dunlap had handled. Dunlap was acquitted on all charges, and later tried to sue Sneddon and SBPD. Current SB County Counsel Jake Stoddard said that said that Sneddon and his employees are immune from legal action because they are prosecutors.,

14noscams (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 12:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Straight people are clueless. :)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 12:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let me add one REAL important fact that Nick conveniently left out of his editorial.

SCOTUS didn't reject the Prop 8 appeal on it's merits. They ONLY rejected it because they felt the plaintiff's didn't have standing to appeal the lower court decision. The plaintiffs were the Prop 8 proponents. They decided to appeal it because the state of CA declined to do so for political reasons. If the state of CA had appealed it, we could well be looking at a very different outcome.

Botany (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 12:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The State of CA wisely declined to do so.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 12:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Brown and Harris should be impeached for not defending the will of the people. That is their obligation under our state constitution and you know that KV. The fact that you and I agree with getting rid of prop 8 is entirely different from publicly elected nitwits refusing to do their job.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 6:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I do not believe it was Brown's/Harris' oblilgation. There were some appeals to state courts to compel the executive branch to defend Prop 8 (I don't recall the plaintifs) but the courts decided against it.

As a practical, but theoretical, example ... it's possible future CA Voters could be convinced to vote for a CA Consitutional Amendment (as was Prop 8) that calls for Latinos to have 2/3rds of a vote ... clearly in violation of the US Consitution.

Should the Governor be compelled to defend such an egregious law pro forma? I think not.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 10:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Part of our elected leaders jobs is not to determine whether any proposition is constitutional or not. Their job is to defend the will of the people. The job of determining whether any law or initiative is constitutional belongs to our court system. By not appealing the lower court ruling of prop 8, our elected leaders effectively undermined the will of the people.

Democrats like KV are all for the democratic process when it goes in his favor, but isn't shy about his willingness to undermine it when it's an issue he disagrees with.

Botany (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 5:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You can do better than to cite an example that would be a clear and settled violation of the Constitution EB. Gay marriage and certainly Prop 8 holds no such position and are still not settled so there is no comparison.
What irks me is that folks are willing to have the Constitution shredded when it meets their personal agenda or is subject to the threat du jour. This is a really bad path to go down since it works against you when the other side is in control.
If our own elected officials will not defend the will of the people, no matter how misguided that will may be, the system is broken. That is why we have remediation through the courts.
Plus, Harris is a garden variety idiot that would not be in any position of power if she was not black and a female and the darling of the Progressives. Her record in SF was abominable.
Brown is way smarter and erratic than her and I truly believe he thought he was doing the right thing because he does have legitimate, albeit often wrong headed, convictions.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 6:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Schwarzenneger also refused to defend Prop 8

whosecityisthis2012 (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 7:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Human rights trumps man's law every time. You can criticize me all you want, let the blood be on your hands Botany.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 11:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

My point, italiansurg, is the Governor has no obligation under the CA Constitution to defend in court laws under appeal (and therefore no grounds for impeachment). I agree, however, that this could bite you in the butt depending on which side of an issue you came down on.

whosecityisthis2012's link has a very relevant quote from state Deputy Attorney General Tamar Pachter:

"Although it is not every day that the attorney general declines to defend a state law, the state Constitution or an initiative, he may do so because his oath requires him (to) support the United States Constitution as the supreme law of the law".

Viewed from another angle, the "will of the people" is not always perfect (or legal).

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 12:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I hadn't realized how courageous a stance Brown had taken, I just figured it was the correct thing to do and applauded on that measure. And same with Arnie too, thanks for that info whosecity2012.

When an injustice is happening someone has to break the cycle somewhere. It was done in a legal non violent way, why complain? Why should CA taxpayers pay ? If that many California taxpayers understood what Prop. 8 was and supported it, why did all the money come from Utah?
(Except for a few hundred from Dale Francisco, is he running for mayor? He should announce from the bird refuge, live broadcast.)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 12:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

EB- The flaw in your logic is that you are assigning the AG the power to determine constitutionality of propositions or laws. That power belongs to our judicial system, not to our politicians. Just as we don't need our politicians determining performing judicial functions, we don't need judges legislating from the bench. Each branch of government has it's separate and distinct functions.

Botany (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2013 at 8:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What bother's me about Nick's article is the unchallenged assumption that the "sisters" were not really sisters. Years ago in a northern Californian county, there were two unmarried sisters who lived together all their lives. They taught at two different schools in the county. Lest you think they could not possibly have been sisters, let me add that they were also identical twins. Even earlier, I knew two retired missionaries who owned a house together the last thirty years of their lives. At least in those days, the lesbian assumption was not automatic---and that today the assumption is automatic, in my view, is the bigger problem.

Furthermore, the sexual orientation of the "sisters" is none of our business, any more than the philandering of straight people. Recently, there was an article about Gore Vidal who lived for "53 years in a sexless relationship" with some other guy. Again, none of our business. C.S Lewis shared a house with his brother for decades.

I do not think the issue was ever a marriage issue. The issue was (for example) documents like durable powers of attorney legally executed by single people naming other unrelated single people as their agents or trustees are routinely rejected by health care providers, etc., if the trustor and trustee are different genders. Why? Because of the stupid assumption that they must be gay. If it takes marriage to fix this problem, so be it.

When I get old, I may want to enter into an economic partnership with another old geezer. That we do so should not make us automatically gay in the eyes of our neighbors. Federally recognized registered domestic partnerships in this day when extended families no longer serve their societal function would fit the bill nicely. To put the issue in terms of marriage adds unnecessary cultural buttons like religion and culture. The frame never should have been marriage.

lucas (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2013 at 9:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Botany, I have made no such claim. But I'm interested in why you think I did. So show us a quote.

To recap, I am responding directly to italiansurg's original claim, which was:

"Brown and Harris should be impeached for not defending the will of the people. That is their obligation under our state constitution".

The attorney general's office is in the executive branch. The State Supreme Court has ruled the executive has no obligation as claimed by italiansurg. The AG and Governor have discretion and this is pointed out in the link provided by whosecityisthis2012.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2013 at 9:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm surprised Dale Francisco hasn't weighed in, at least with an apology. he was certainly happy to $upport Prop. 8.; maybe he'd care to share his reaction.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 5, 2013 at 4:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

EB is technically correct, but the legal dichotomy between being sworn to defend the will of the people and the executive branch not having an obligation is not a hard and fast line. Worse yet, the executive branch uses their "obligation" selectively to defend laws as well. I guess it boils down to the fact that it is not healthy to have selective enforcement of the will of the people, even for such wrong headed ideas like banning gay marriage.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2013 at 8:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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