Last week, as part of our coverage of the Supreme Court's decisions to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, we opined that the head of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Kate Kendell, was having a very good week. In our story, we wrote the following: "Today was a bit of a banner day for the Executive Director of the National Center of Lesbian Rights, who blurted out to the crowd [at City Hall] what many were thinking: 'Fuck Prop. 8.'"
Turns out that we might have been wrong. As Kendell told the Chronicle, "I know this doesn't reflect well on me, but the truth is, I wasn't thinking,"
Someone who did give the matter a great deal of thought was our reader, Jim Heald. Shortly after our story went up, he emailed us the following, which we are re-printing with his permission. (We've edited it slightly for clarity.)
While I agree with most your assessment of the post-Supreme Court ruling "ups and downs," I do have to disagree with your strong endorsement of Kate Kendall and her future. Kate did wonderful work in driving this forward, but she took a huge step backwards with her ill-timed braying of the overused and polarizing phrase "Fuck Prop 8."
I have a problem with her on two counts: One, she ruined her opportunity to be broadcast nationally making strong and compelling statements in support of the rights of LBGT couples and activists. And two, she continued the growing trend of public statements meant to shock without saying anything of relevance.
On the first point, while the national cameras focused on her, instead intelligently using the opportunity to make a pointed short speech in defense of LGBT rights, she uttered a three-word statement that ensured she would not be heard on air for the rest of the day. Every station in the nation broadcasting that immediately turned away from the broadcast and the next time she came to the podium they also moved away to another shot.
In addition to hurting her reputation, she also damaged San Francisco in the eyes of many across the nation. I know many of us do not care what others think about us, but we should. If we really want the statement "as goes San Francisco, so goes California" to be true, we have to understand that much of California and the nation will not go as San Francisco does if we act this way. Her actions further enforced the belief of many others that we here in SF are nuts, weirdos, freaks, fruits, and whatever other pejorative you want to use.
Do you think Martin Luther King would be so revered today if he began his "I Have A Dream" speech by blurting out "Fuck racism?"
On the second point—and I know I am in the minority here—I have a real issue with "catch phrase politics" and the popular trend of using profanity to "make a point" without saying anything intelligent. Six years ago the nation chose to "Vote for Change"—while most of the voting public didn't really understand what change they were voting for.
Kate showed that she is part of the trend. For the past four years we have been hearing that phrase uttered around California and the nation. Do we really think it helped the cause? Do you really think that those who supported Prop. 8 changed their minds when they heard this phrase? I think just the opposite happened. Those on the fence who are offended by the language were pushed away.
A key to winning broad based support is making compelling arguments to win over the marginal populous, not pushing them away or alienating them with crude or rude statements on-air. So while you may think that Kate Kendell's stock just went up, I believe she blew her chance. Let's put it into her words—Kate fucked up.
—Jim Heald is a lifelong Bay Area resident and Giants fan.
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