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Faith-Based: Hating the sin.

The Fly

Inside the (Gay) Numbers

Not since San Jose spent half a million dollars to erect a statue of the city's poorly behaved first mayor, Thomas Fallon, have so many impassioned people descended upon City Hall. So many, in fact, that the fire marshal was summoned to regulate the number of visitors coming and going. The issue? Whether San Jose government should provide employment benefits to married same-sex employees, which, with the California Supreme Court stiff-arming of gay marriage last week, appears as if it will affect a single city employee, Tina Salas. Who were the 122 people willing to sacrifice four hours on a Tuesday afternoon to publicly defend or condemn Salas' benefits package? To paraphrase the old Pogo comic strip, mostly they were us. Of the 66 who supported her, all but eight listed San Jose addresses on information provided to the clerk's office. Fifteen said equality was the main reason councilmembers should endorse the policy. One invoked MLK'S name, another Rosa Parks' and a third said same-sex marriage preserved, not corrupted, the sanctity of marriage. Six said they were Christian ministers; three said they were present or former city employees; and two identified themselves as transsexuals. On the opposition side, seven of 56 opponents listed San Jose as their address. Thirty said the main reason for their opposition was that they wanted city officials to obey the law. Four said God wouldn't like it; two said homosexuality was evil; two said they were appearing on behalf of Jesus Christ; and one said Satan was manipulating people. Four opponents identified themselves as Christian ministers; one compared gays and lesbians to murderers; and one predicted an earthquake would erupt by the end of the meeting. Moral of the story: Democracy in all its conflicted glory is alive and well in San Jose.

Rally Round the Godless

From the where-are-they-now department: remember Michael Newdow? He's the Sacramento emergency-room doctor (and protest singer) who convinced the 9th Circuit Court to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, as a conflict of church and state. Now for the endgame: on March 24, the Supreme Court will hear Newdow v. U.S. Congress. And local atheists are rallying on the day of the hearing, March 24, outside San Francisco's 9th Circuit Court, 95 Seventh St. When Mel Gibson is raking in the dough, and W insists Jesus is his favorite political philosopher, Atheists of Silicon Valley (godlessgeeks.com) have their work cut out for them. "Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion," says the group's co-founder and president, Mark Thomas. "A lot of people think if you're not religious, you're a bad person," adds Joe Mercado Jr., spokesman for the group. A couple of weekends ago, the godless ones put up a table at Valley Fair mall not far from the Jehovah's Witnesses, selling shirts reading, "Atheists are Friendly in the Silicon Valley." Thomas stresses this friendliness, adding that the group is a great place for cyberhermits to socialize; he met his live-in, Lydia Rice, at an American Atheists convention in Boston. Even so, Thomas is concerned about the outcome of Newdow v. U.S. Congress. Pointing to the current donnybrook over gay marriage, he adds, "Some atheists say this may not be the right time." The court may, he says, stand down on the technicality that Newdow's daughter--whom Newdow was trying to protect from the pledge--is no longer in his custody. And if they don't reject his appeal, a ruling in his favor might spur yet another proposed constitutional amendment "as fast as you can say DeLay or Santorum." In any case, the rally begins on the March 24 at 11am. As always, God was unavailable for comment.

Too Close to Call

The Libertarian Primary for the District 13 Senate seat is shaping up to be a real nail-biter. Indeed, a quick glance at the unofficial election results from the March 2 primary show incumbent candidate John Webster trailing newbie Mike Laursen by just one vote, 275 to 276. On election night, Laursen trailed by two votes, by March 5 Laursen took a one-vote lead, which he has held up until now. Official results won't be in until March 30. Just what the heck is going on in the Libertarian Party to provoke such a tightly contested race? It could well be a race between the traditional purity vs. the strategic mainstream. Webster is of the old school and Laursen of the new. "I'm pretty much a libertarian activist-general shit disturber," Webster says. "The idea is that if you let shit alone, you don't smell it, but if you disturb it, it brings up the old stuff to smell." Laursen, meanwhile, has a less blunt take: "This guy [Webster] is not a typical Libertarian," Laursen says. "I'm a fairly moderate, mainstream Libertarian. He approaches things at a more abstract level. I'm as versed in all the abstract Libertarian theory, I just don't really talk about that to voters. I'm concerned with the practical things that we could deal with."

Photograph by Dane Andrew

Governator: Coffee with Maria.


The governator was back in town last week, this time as a humble former movie star collecting a Maverick Award for his 27-year film career. Apparently the choice sparked controversy because it prompted Halfdan Hussey, the founder of Cinequest, which presented Schwarzenegger with the award, to circulate an email defending the choice. Arnie, after all, is known for big films in which things crash and blow up. Cinequest glories in small, independent films. Appearing at the Morris Dailey Auditorium at SJSU, the governor, wearing a suit and black cowboy boots, was above the fray, somehow managing to be charming and candid during a half-hour chat with former Mayor Tom McEnery. For example, Arnie said he found it impossible, at first, to say the famous line from Terminator, "I'll be back." His Austrian tongue found it easier to say, "I will be back." In fact, the governator said he wasn't the first choice to be the most famous robot in American film--O.J. Simpson was. But, as the legend goes, director James Cameron didn't believe Simpson could be a killer. Schwarzie said he still wants to make films, ideally with Dustin Hoffman, Clint Eastwood or Al Pacino. The one thing people don't know about him: He brings coffee to wife Maria Shriver and reads to his kids before bedtime.

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From the March 17-24, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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