In 2004, Gavin Newsom became a hero to the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community by directing the city and county of San Francisco to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In 2016, his star with gay Californians is fading.
Newsom is promoting his run for governor in 2018 by leading a ballot initiative campaign on gun control that sounds sensible at first glance. But his plan will not increase public safety for the LGBT community or anyone in California. Our law enforcement officials – both police officers and sheriffs – have announced strong opposition to Newsom’s measure for its potential to criminalize law-abiding citizens rather than prevent criminals from committing acts of violence.
The LGBT community cannot afford to let Newsom’s rhetoric fool them. His proposition will seriously impact the ability to protect ourselves and our families by reducing our Second Amendment rights.
Californians have not forgotten how the Proposition 8 fight in 2009 led to a historic victory but also a surge in anti-gay violence. We’re fortunate to live in a progressive state, but gays in California and around the world have repeatedly been targeted at higher rates after the passage of new legal protections.
One of the most chilling examples is in France, where reported attacks on the LGBT community rose by 78 percent in the year the country legalized same-sex marriage.
Gay Californians are on alert to threats, and many choose to use the rights provided to them by the Second Amendment. Owning a firearm and learning how to use it properly help countless members of our community feel more comfortable about the security they provide to their families.
The choice to own a firearm was one that helped save Tom Palmer’s life. He is a gay Oxford-educated man living in San Jose who found himself the target of a large group of bigots. As they followed him down an empty street, they yelled epithets and threats. Palmer, a self-described “peacenik,” showed them a gun and credits it with saving his life.
It’s a choice that Newsom is trying to strip away in the name of terrorism.
The attacks in San Bernardino are deeply troubling, but the threat of terrorism is not one that gays think about on a daily basis. We do think about who’s watching us when we walk to our car at night from work, the gym or a restaurant. Or just walking down the street in neighborhoods like the Castro in San Francisco or West Hollywood.
In 2014, West Hollywood had the highest violent-crime rate of the 23 districts patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It was 98 percent higher than South Los Angeles and 38 percent higher than Compton.
According to the California State Sheriffs’ Association, Newsom’s plan will not help us fight this rising crime rate against the LGBT community. Instead he wants to “place additional restrictions on law-abiding citizens who wish to purchase ammunition” and “create a new class of criminals out of those that already comply with common-sense practices that now exist.”
Politicians like Newsom frequently ignore the violence gay Californians face every day because the public has intensified its intolerance for gay bashing. When companies or individuals make discriminatory policies or statements, they are instantly criticized on social media and in the news.
It’s a refreshing change to see our fellow citizens unite to protect our civil liberties. But the bigots remain, choosing to be less vocal and more violent. Newsom’s aim to restrict our options to protect ourselves is a huge win for criminals who target gays.
Recent bills in Georgia and North Carolina that institutionalize discrimination against the LGBT community prove that there is a long way to go before we have equal protection across the nation.
Here in California, it’s easy for non-LGBT citizens to think the fight is over. And it’s going to be a surprise to many in our community to hear that Newsom is leading an effort that will harm LGBT safety and choice.
He’s a good man who has done so much to support our civil liberties. It’s not too late to speak up and tell him he’s wrong this time around.
Nicki Stallard of Fresno is a member of the Pink Pistols, an organization dedicated to the legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community.