Last Sunday, Mateo and I, together with several thousand others walked in San Diego's AIDS Walk to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS research and treatment. At the beginning of the walk, Jerry Sanders and Toni Atkins, respectively San Diego's Mayor and an openly lesbian City Council Member who represents a big chunk of the gayborhood--and who very kindly and personally responds when you write her letters disagreeing with her decisions and positions--read the proclamation before the walk. Now, Sanders had just the week or so before reversed himself and gone in favor of the city's amicus curiae brief arguing for same sex marriage, after revealing in a press conference that his own daughter is a lesbian.
Before actually getting to the reading of the proclamation, Atkins and Sanders had a self-congratulatory exchange about the win for fairness and equality represented in the brief. Surely, this was motivated by being in front of a crowd most of whom would agree and would help to bolster support for Sanders' recently announced bid for re-election, especially since he is now likely to lose quite a bit of Republican support. That is all well and good, however, AIDS Walk is precisely the wrong forum for this. Why? Simply because HIV/AIDS isn't a gay issue. When it first arose in the US, it was centered on the gay community, but it is not primarily or even noticeably gay-related throughout the rest of the world and it is a serious concern for the whole nation. So there is something both a little overly opportunistic and misguided in taking an event about AIDS (not an event about AIDS in the gay community) and making it into a platform for positions--however admirable or popular they might be--that are so closely tied with the gay community. We probably don't want one's position on same sex marriage to be a litmus test for whether we can cooperate with them on HIV and AIDS.