Op-ed: Why Gavin Newsom Is as Much a Gay Rights Hero as Harvey Milk

If you live in California and plan to marry now, you owe him a heap of thanks for paving the way.



Above: California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom speaks during a rally after hearing results from the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage Wednesday in San Francisco City Hall.

I thought of Brown and Newsom on our wedding day — the road they put us on by giving us rights we didn’t realize we could have as a queer couple (yes, even though he’s a boy and I’m a girl, Jake and I still identify as a queer couple).

Yesterday, Newsom said he “took a moment to savor this final step in the long march towards justice. It is truly an emotionally staggering day.” It was for everyone. I've been married to the same person for 22 years now and I can tell you that while a wedding is just one day, a marriage is a lifetime if you do it right. Having the right to that institution can never be underestimated.

Newsom knew back in 2004 that marrying same-sex couples would lead to litigation, but he said, “Discrimination and inequality is as much about people as it is the law, and in marrying Phyllis Lyon and the late Del Martin, a loving committed couple of 50 years, we put a human face to marriage inequality. The human faces — mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, grandchildren — have turned the cultural and political tide of this country.  The monumental shift in public opinion during the last decade is a tribute to the hard work of LGBT activists and allies who continue to battle at the ballot box for equal treatment under the law — state by state, vote by vote. LGBT communities across this nation have won over individuals of all religious and political persuasions by rationally advancing that there is no basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of the basic rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.”

I’m thrilled with everyone who led the charge against Prop. 8 (and the Defense of Marriage Act), from activists like my friend Robin Tyler (who, with her wife, Diane Olson, became the first lesbian couple married in Los Angeles County in 2008), to the attorneys and activists like Ted Olson, David Boies, and the American Federation for Equal Rights, but I have a special place in my heart for Gavin Newsom, the pretty boy who made power meterosexuality popular in politics. The guy I underestimated in the early ’90s changed my life — and yours too, even if you don’t know it. Someday we’ll all live without discrimination over who we love and we can thank, at least in part,  Newsom for that.

He didn’t die for the cause, he wasn’t as radical or progressive as Harvey Milk, but in my book he’s as much a gay rights hero.


DIANE ANDERSON-MINSHALL is the editor in chief of HIV Plus magazine and the Advocate's editor at large.