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Monday, October 20, 2008

What He Said

posted by on October 20 at 8:42 AM


As expected, one reason Proposition 8, stripping gay couples of marriage equality, is still viable in California is because of strong African-American support. Black Californians back the anti-gay measure by a margin of 20 points, 58 - 38, in the SUSA poll. No other ethnic group comes close to the level of opposition and black turnout is likely to be very high next month.

All this makes it vital, in my opinion, that Barack Obama strongly and unequivocally oppose Proposition 8 in California, rather than keeping mainly quiet as he has done so far. We need him to make an ad opposing it. This is a core test of whether gay Americans should back Obama as enthusiastically as they have in the last month. If he does not stand up for gay couples now, why should we believe he will when he is in office? And if black Americans are the critical bloc that helps kill civil rights for gays, that will not help deepen Obama’s governing coalition. It could tear it apart.

Memo to Obama: make an ad. Speak loudly. Defend equality. Defend it when it might actually lose you some votes. Show us you are not another Clinton.

RSS icon Comments


Wow, dude. That is so totally never going to happen. It would be nice, sure, but risk "heartland" votes to back a gay rights cause in California? I'll eat my hat.

Posted by Debby | October 20, 2008 8:48 AM

yeah obama, lose the election. I am for gay rights, but let's keep the election first.

Posted by mickey in AR | October 20, 2008 8:50 AM

Yup, Debby nailed it. Gay-Americans are not important enough to a national candidate to risk alienating a much larger voting block, i.e. African-Americans or Right wing leaning voters in the middle of the nation. This is Democracy and politics, not feel good therapy.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | October 20, 2008 8:52 AM

Look, Proposition 8 is going to pass. It sucks, it totally sucks, but we've lost this one. It's "too close to call" now, and we all know that once in the anonymity of the voting booth people will let that inner bigot out to pull the lever. We're not going to win.

On the presidential election, however, we've got a real, solid chance to kick some ass and take back the house, senate, etc. California will still have DP, and nationally we'll have a better chance than ever at getting some federal recognition. It's a net gain.

Posted by Yeek | October 20, 2008 8:54 AM

What percentage of the California electorate is black?

Posted by Hernandez | October 20, 2008 8:56 AM

It is a conundrum. Maybe he could send Biden. Or one of the kind members of Dr. King's family.

Posted by Vince | October 20, 2008 8:57 AM

Not gonna happen.

If Obama made a big thing of this, strongly supporting gay marriage in CA, the right wingers would have a field day. It would be a huge political risk. He hasn't gotten where he is by taking huge political risks.

Unfortunate, because I think Sullivan is right. Obama has been almost silent on the matter, and if he made a strong statement, it could tip the scales in favor of the No on 8 campaign.

But you could say the same about any prominent black celebrity, not just Barack Obama. Where is Oprah? Cosby? Jesse Jackson? Queen Latifa? Forest Whitaker?

Posted by Reverse Polarity | October 20, 2008 8:57 AM

I'm confused... I thought you wanted Obama to win?

Posted by Steve P. | October 20, 2008 9:04 AM

The phrase tyranny of the majority, used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, is a criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority's interests so far above a minority's interest as to be comparable in cruelty to "tyrannical" despots. See Crow, Jim.

Posted by Cat in Chicago | October 20, 2008 9:05 AM

Memo to Sullivan: Stop with the memos already.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 20, 2008 9:05 AM

With all due respect Dan, the issues in play in the presidential election are not just all about you.

I'm wondering, have you and Andrew ever been wrong about anything else? Hmmmmm?

Gay rights are important. But if you succeed in forcing Obama to place gay rights in front of winning the general election you will throw the election to the Republicans. Are you willing to have McCain/Palin if you do not get your way right now? Like you did in 2004? When we should have elected Dr. Dean but instead Karl Rove, Andrew Sullivan and Dan Savage were successful in making the election all about gay rights.

Human rights and the role of the constitution are central questions to be decided in this election.

You would get your rights faster if you and Andrew Sullivan would endorse McCain. So Obama would get the boost in the polls.

Posted by Rain Monkey | October 20, 2008 9:07 AM

Didn't Biden already state the Obama/Biden ticket's opposition to gay marriage during the VP debate?

Posted by Nick | October 20, 2008 9:12 AM

Here we go again, threatening all of gay america and the presidency of Obama with this "we screwed up in CA, save us or you'll never have gay rights!" claptrap.

Seriously, save it for a mid-term election.

Posted by AJ | October 20, 2008 9:17 AM

I think gay rights would work a lot better if they were renamed GZA rights.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 20, 2008 9:25 AM

if only there existed a way for us to read the thoughts of this Sullivan fellow online other than this Slog...

Posted by thx 4 the link | October 20, 2008 9:27 AM

It's amusing with what fervor many "liberals" are willing to throw groups under the bus if they might stand in the way of an Obama victory.

I think it shows they are willing to "sacrifice for Obama", since they are willing to sacrifice, well, you.

Posted by Fritz | October 20, 2008 9:28 AM

@11 is absolutely right. It is FAR more important that Obama win than all my friends back home in CA win this vote to marry. It'll come back soon enough. This is a long road, and Obama is wise enough to push us up this hill. We need him more than anything now.

we lost 2004 partly because of all the marriage amendments on the ballots nationwide. Let's not make that mistake again.

Posted by calvin | October 20, 2008 9:28 AM

@5 Hernandez

Sullivan's link to SurveyUSA says "Composition of Likely Voters... Black: 6%." So if Obama could -- somehow -- move the black vote by double digits on this, it would have only maybe a one point effect on the overall outcome.

Sure. That would totally be worth it, Sullivan. Who cares about the Supreme Court anyway? There's only like a one in four chance that McCain would die in office and that that little tinpot Christian spokes model would take over. How much harm could she do, really? I mean, she's only one little fundamentalist who can't tell you the name of a major newspaper. How bad could that be?

Or maybe Obama should go ahead and risk slightly less enthusiastic support from gays. I don't know. Somebody help me out here...

Posted by elenchos | October 20, 2008 9:29 AM

memo to The Gays: you're still not very popular on the rest of the country. You know, the parts Obama actually needs to fight for.

Posted by The CHZA | October 20, 2008 9:30 AM

Sorry Dan, most of the black people I know are anti gay. And I know a whole lot of them being black and all.

Posted by Fly-Over Illinois | October 20, 2008 9:31 AM

@16: It's amusing to think that a minority in one state has decided that it needs to use Rovian tactics to frighten similar minorities in other state. "If you don't support the No on 8 movement, you are betraying gay rights! If you don't donate, you will lose all your rights!"

Posted by AJ | October 20, 2008 9:35 AM

I heard Gavin Newsom is planning to run for governor of California in 2010. Whoever thinks he has a chance of winning, raise your hand.

Posted by Cat in Chicago | October 20, 2008 9:37 AM

Blacks are going to have to GET OVER IT. Stop the homophobia; it is no different than racism.

If blacks are instrumental in the reversal of same-sex marriage rights in California, expect a backlash in the gay community like you've never seen before.

Posted by Jonathon | October 20, 2008 9:37 AM

@21: Well, yeah. If you don't publicly oppose Prop 8 you are betraying gay rights. Is there any other way to interpret it? This seems like a rather obvious connection.

Posted by Fritz | October 20, 2008 9:43 AM

@23: Wow. Just wow.

Your comment alone should become its own "Yes on 8" ad. Do they have an e-mail?

Posted by AJ | October 20, 2008 9:45 AM

@ 12 - yes, although he also said he supported equal rights for the gays and the straights.

@ 23 - what would this backlash consist of?

Posted by UnoriginalAndrew | October 20, 2008 9:47 AM

@ 26 - I think the gays are gone come whup some mo fo Black ass.

Posted by Cat in Chicago | October 20, 2008 9:51 AM

Jonathan, I expect the gay backlash against blacks to amount to nothing more than a rally at a gay bar involving blackface and watermelon or grape vodka drink specials. Cause we all know that gay political backlash is all bark and no bite.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 20, 2008 9:52 AM

Are you fucking crazy?!

You wanna hand this election to McCain over Prop 8? We may be about to elect a black man, but shit. This is still America, land of the rednecks, home of the evangelicals. Put down the bong and stay focused.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | October 20, 2008 10:02 AM

I don't think we are going to turn the tide of homophobia in the african american community in the next two weeks. How about if we focus our attention on getting Obama in a place where he will have the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices who may one day rule on these issues (just like amendment 2 on Colorado) it wasn't won in the election booth but at the Supreme Court. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Posted by Dave | October 20, 2008 10:02 AM

Dan, a McCain-Palin presidency would be FAR WORSE for gays (not to mention everyone's rights) than the passing of Prop 8.

Obama should stay as far away from this wedge issue as possible, certainly until after the election. Until Obama has garnered enough popularity and strength as president, any attempt to challenge the majority of Americans who are against gay marriage is tantamount to handing the federal government back to the Republicans.

Posted by Sean | October 20, 2008 10:14 AM

My first post was excessively bellicose.

I like the gay. But the political reality is that initiatives like Prop 8 are created precisely put a decisive issue into play at the time of the election.

As I stated in my letter to Savage Love the morning after the election of 2004, ... uh, well, you can read it in the archives.

The goal of Prop 8 is to make gay rights an issue during the election, because it is an issue which benefits Republican candidates.

The more you scream, the better they do.

Obama has California as a whole. But the presence of Prop 8 influences the national discussion and especially favors the local candidates in conservative districts. California would be a very large red state without L.A. and S.F.

The political reality is that the Civil Rights movement, and the feminist movement have only made substantial gains as an older generation dies of old age.

The gay rights activists could accept that their cause will benefit from a Democrat president nominating the next Supreme Court justices will benefit all human rights issues.

You could make common cause with the ACLU, and Amnesty International. Or, you could do what the Republicans want and make the issue all about you.

And this is not throwing the gays under the bus, this is recognizing that advancing gay rights requires winning elections with candidates who will advance human rights.

Posted by Rain Monkey | October 20, 2008 10:19 AM
Just a week after the Yes on 8 campaign launched a commercial featuring San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom shouting that same-sex marriages are going to happen “whether you like it or not!” polls show opponents of same-sex marriage gaining an edge, although the race is extremely close.

Can we perhaps learn a lesson from this? That perhaps strident activists like Newsom are more likely to harm the cause than help it?

Posted by keshmeshi | October 20, 2008 10:30 AM

@33 -- or perhaps the notion that you can support candidates who advocate discriminating against you on the theory that you can push things through court action "whether you like it or not" is untenable.

Posted by Fritz | October 20, 2008 10:39 AM

#16: Right on.

#17: Go to hell. Why the fuck are the queers the only ones who are expected to constantly put their own rights on the back burner for the 'good of the fucking country'? Seems we played this game with Clinton 16yrs ago. Oh yeah, if we donated and knocked on doors and got out the vote for Clinton, things would improve for gay America. Well, we did, and guess what? I'm still fucking waiting.
Just for once try to imagine how much enthusiasm you could get for a candidate who ignored your rights, regardless of how terrible the opposition. Just try. Bet you fucking can't.

Posted by renbot | October 20, 2008 11:00 AM

1. We still don't know how badly Mr. Obama will be hurt by the Bradley effect.
2. Only 6% of the California population is black.
3. Obama can not change the minds of black Prop-8 voters, but he can cause them to vote against him.
4. If Obama speaks out against Prop 8, at least 47 "undecided" voters in red states will immediately "decide" to vote against him. Would other voters turn against him as well? We have no way of knowing.
5. If Obama loses this election it is extremely likely that we will end up with a Supreme Court that will be the end of our hopes for equality and freedom.

Conclusion: In the short-term, all people need for Prop 8 to fail. In the long-term, we can not afford the Theocracy that will come if Obama loses this election. Therefore, I'm going to be very single-minded until I see Obama survive long enough to be inaugurated. Period.

Posted by Eddy968 | October 20, 2008 11:16 AM

Prop 8 supporters, from their side, were wise--or lucky--to get it on the ballot this year. It should help rally McCain supporters, and may add some Catholics to his side since he also supports DOMA. Mr Obama has hurt himself among Catholics--and I would think blacks too--by promising to repeal DOMA. It would be wisest for Mr Obama to not make that ad, and not talk about it, or talk about it only through surrogates.

Posted by Seajay | October 20, 2008 11:16 AM


Why the fuck are the queers the only ones who are expected to constantly put their own rights on the back burner for the 'good of the fucking country'?

Yeah! We have universal health care and a living wage and equal pay for women and a national handgun ban and a fair progressive tax system and an end to the war in Iraq! Why are gay people the only ones who don't get everything they want right this very second?!?

Posted by Big Sven | October 20, 2008 11:24 AM

Dear Obama: We think it would be a nice show of support and solidarity if you were to lose this election.

Single-Issue Liberal Voter.

Posted by flamingbanjo | October 20, 2008 11:31 AM


At least you get to vote for people who support universal healthcare, gun laws and equal rights for women, even if you haven't "gotten everything you want right this second." We don't even get that much.
Just try to imagine what your reaction would be if Dan/Sully were to urge you to support a trickle-down anti-affirmative action pro-lifer just because he supports gay rights. You would fucking hemorrhage out every orifice. Yet that is what you ask of fags and dykes every election.

Posted by renbot | October 20, 2008 11:44 AM

Partner and I have 4 teenage sons (bred b4 we met). Our biggest concern this election cycle - keeping them outta that Iraq hell hole. Our wedding can wait

Posted by jackseattle | October 20, 2008 11:48 AM


Barack Obama has a ways to go before he can be said to support universal health care, and he definitely doesn't want to ban handguns. His slight moderating of his position on late term abortions sent NY NOW into a tizzy.

So, no, nobody gets to vote for someone who will give them everything they want, right now.

If you can find a fiscal right winger who supports gay right, by all means, vote for him. I wouldn't blame you.

Posted by elenchos | October 20, 2008 12:02 PM

@6: Members of Dr King's family have come out against gay marriage repeatedly. His daughter was here in Washington State a couple of years ago and categorically denied that gay marriage was a civil rights issue.

Posted by inkweary | October 20, 2008 12:07 PM

These stats seem right on with an experience I recently had while vacationing in Southern California.

I went to a Democratic Party-sponsored debate watch party for the Biden-Palin debate, and was shocked to be handed a yes on 8 flyer from one of several African American women passing the flyers around.

I commented to Democratic staffers there, asking why these people were allowed to hand this stuff out at the event. They just shrugged.

As I was leaving, another woman tried to hand me another flyer, I refused, and before I realized it, I said, "That's despicable, I can't believe you're handing that kind of hateful material out here." I was furious, and she was shocked that someone had called her out.

What the hell is wrong with Californian Democrats that they'd allow that kind of activity at one of their events??? And why are African Americans there so threatened by marriage equality??

Posted by Flying South | October 20, 2008 12:15 PM

These stats seem right on with an experience I recently had while vacationing in Southern California.

I went to a Democratic Party-sponsored debate watch party for the Biden-Palin debate, and was shocked to be handed a yes on 8 flyer from one of several African American women passing the flyers around.

I commented to Democratic staffers there, asking why these people were allowed to hand this stuff out at the event. They just shrugged.

As I was leaving, another woman tried to hand me another flyer, I refused, and before I realized it, I said, "That's despicable, I can't believe you're handing that kind of hateful material out here." I was furious, and she was shocked that someone had called her out.

What the hell is wrong with Californian Democrats that they'd allow that kind of activity at one of their events??? And why are African Americans there so threatened by marriage equality??

Posted by Flying South | October 20, 2008 12:15 PM

Deal with trying to get the blacks up out of the down low after November 4.

The black vote is a classic example of a block of voters taken for granted without getting anything tangible for it, but where the other party is even worse.

George Bush won because he said he loves Jesus.

Nobody is going to win by saying they love Dan Savage.

Posted by Rain Monkey | October 20, 2008 12:34 PM

@42 -- actually, when Obama was running in IL, he did sign a statement saying he wanted a complete ban on handgun ownership. This may make you think more or less highly of him, depending on your point of view.

@44 -- it seems you are only allowed to call white people out on bigotry.

Posted by Fritz | October 20, 2008 12:53 PM

Uhhh, black voters? Really? It's the WHITE MEN who are sinking Prop 8.

Composition of "yes" votes:
37% - white women
11% - all asian-americans combined
7% - all african-americans combined

Posted by jrrrl | October 20, 2008 12:54 PM

memo to #19: Blacks, you're still not very popular in the rest of the country. And your willingness to act like the KKK makes me think this is okay.

memo to #20: Sorry negro, most of the white people I know are anti black. And I know a whole lot of them being white and all.

what does it take for black people to realize that white sheet DOES NOT look good on them?

Posted by jane doe | October 20, 2008 1:00 PM

You may not remember this, but when I was supporting Perot and Nader I was told in no uncertain terms that the Democrat party owns my vote. That I owe them my goddamn vote. It was recommended that voters like me should be slapped for checking the polls first and then casting a vote to send a message about GATT, NAFTA, and the WTO.

And guess what, now I agree with Dan Savage that winning elections is more important then promoting a narrow agenda. He convinced me.

Now can we convince him that the same reasoning applies?

Posted by Rain Monkey | October 20, 2008 1:00 PM

Well, let me see here. If you don't support Obama, then where does your vote go? You can vote for McCain and then things will be SOOOO much better for gays... uhhh... or you can vote for one of the independents, and then McCain will get in, and then... uhhhh...

Posted by Breklor | October 20, 2008 1:18 PM

@ 40 - so health care and Iraq and everything else are hetero-only issues?

@ 43 - Coretta Scott King was in favor of gay marriage. She even got some Westboro mourners as a result.

And Dexter King said the sister, Bernice, corrupted MLK's legacy by hosting an anti-gay marriage rally at a center the family runs.

Posted by UnoriginalAndrew | October 20, 2008 1:21 PM

i need to read the full text of proposition 8, but does it repeal the marriage licenses that have already been issued to Ellen and Sulu and the rest?

If not, then it seems ripe for a massive lawsuit that some gay couples were granted licenses while others are not. If it does, then it also seems ripe for lawsuits from those who were already married then had their license voided.

Either way, it would be prudent to wait until California has some money again before filing suit.


Posted by diggum | October 20, 2008 1:24 PM

@41 I'm sorry, but you and your partner have demonstrated by being married to women and fathering children with them that your judgment cannot be trusted.

And it was okay for you to reap the benefits of marriage in your old community in your past but you want to deny it to everyone in your current community in the present? Because this is the kind of world you want your sons to live in? Because we can only concentrate on one issue at a time and equality obviously is the one that's got to go?

Simply put: can you give me one reason to care what your selfish, short-sighted ass thinks?

And, yes, Dan -- nobody cares what Sullivan has to say, either.

Posted by whatevernevermind | October 20, 2008 1:25 PM

51: Dan has obviously succumbed to identity politics, a malignant brain disease that causes psychosis and paranoia. It a common affliction on the left and one of the leading causes of right-wing political victories. Usually you have to convince the patient that there are things like the "greater good" and the "public interest" that, yes, supersede the smaller battles. The patient should also be reminded of the suffering they will face if they allow identity politics to take over the bigger picture, i.e. their rights in the long term.

What Dan thinks is important now will look insignificant next to the crises caused by a McCain-Palin presidency and a completely conservative Supreme Court. So really he should just let California deal with this and shut up about Obama's position on it. What teh gays need are federal mandates and they're not going to get those mandates without a liberal/progressive majority in Washington.

The Californian gays are just going to have to grin and bear it for now. Sullivan and Savage's opinion on the matter is hardheaded and played out.

Posted by Jay | October 20, 2008 1:35 PM


“I am,” Palin said. “In my own, state, I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that that's where we would go because I don't support gay marriage.

“I'm not going to be out there judging individuals, sitting in a seat of judgment telling what they can and can't do, should and should not do,” she said. “But I certainly can express my own opinion here and take actions that I believe would be best for traditional marriage and that's casting my votes and speaking up for traditional marriage that, that instrument that it's the foundation of our society is that strong family and that's based on that traditional definition of marriage, so I do support that.”

Posted by AJ | October 20, 2008 1:36 PM

Endorsing race-baiting doesn't look good on you, Dan.

Posted by Matt | October 20, 2008 4:06 PM

race-baiting? Are you confusing Dan with AL Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jerimiah Wright, Louiss Farrakhan, and the vast majority of african-american "civil rights" leaders? Amazing how quickly the accusatons fly when gays demand the same voice and clout as african americans do. Amazing how many african americans get angry when gays or women, god forbid, feels their civil rights are as important as those of the black man.

Posted by jane doe | October 20, 2008 4:31 PM

@54. OMIGOD - you're the Single Issue Liberal Voter! try getting laid, it will should mellow you out

Posted by jackseattle | October 20, 2008 5:24 PM

@58: Encouraging gay people to scapegoat a supposedly undifferentiated and uniformly homophobic mass of people for the failure of a referendum to pass? A referendum which, incidentally, is opposed by many different groups of Californians and non-Californians? Why not invoke the Church of LDS if we want to place blame where it belongs?

That's what I see Sullivan doing in the post Dan cites approvingly, and the results of that rhetoric are palpable in the comments.

I'm gay and I'm determined to claim my civil rights, but I'm not gonna pull other folks down when I don't get my way. If that feels okay to you, jane doe, then by all means vote for McCain.

Posted by Matt | October 20, 2008 6:32 PM

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