POLITICS
03/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Gavin Newsom Calls Obama's Inaction On Gay Marriage 'Fundamentally Inexcusable'

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom became the latest Democratic official to take a noticeably public swipe at President Barack Obama for inaction on gay rights.

The California Democrat -- who told the New York Times's Maureen Dowd that his political future was so fuzzy he could, in a couple years, end up "as the clerk of a wine store" -- called Obama's slow walking on support for gay marriage "fundamentally inexcusable."

"Oh, I can't get in trouble here," Newsom said with a playful wince. "I want him to succeed. But I am very upset by what he's not done in terms of rights of gays and lesbians. I understand it tactically in a campaign, but at this point I don't know. There is some belief that he actually doesn't believe in same-sex marriage. But it's fundamentally inexcusable for a member of the Democratic party to stand on the principle that separate is now equal, but only on the basis of sexual orientation. We've always fought for the rights of minorities and against the whims of majorities."

The swipes didn't end there. Newsom, who dropped plans to run for California governor in late October, told Dowd that the promise of the 2008 election -- the "organic movement" -- no longer held true. In its void, Democrats find themselves vulnerable.

"[T]here's a growing discontent and lack of enthusiasm that I worry about," said Newsom. "He should just stand on principle, put this behind him and move on."

Among sympathizers with Newsom's push to advance the gay rights agenda, such criticisms seem almost quaint. Among areas of political inertia that have plagued the White House, LGBT issues stand out quite prominently. The San Francisco mayor isn't the only one who thinks so. David Boies, Al Gore's 2000 recount lawyer and a lead attorney on the challenge to California's Proposition 8, told Dowd last week that his hope going forward was that "my Democratic president will catch up to my conservative Republican co-counsel [Ted Olsen, George W. Bush's recount lawyer]."