Newsom upbeat in inaugural address but calls out Republicans

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Friday January 6, 2023
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Governor Gavin Newsom delivers his second inaugural address Friday, January 6, in Sacramento. Photo: Screengrab
Governor Gavin Newsom delivers his second inaugural address Friday, January 6, in Sacramento. Photo: Screengrab

California Governor Gavin Newsom was upbeat in his second inaugural address Friday even as he acknowledged the harmful mistakes of the past and criticized Republican leaders in other states.

Held on the second anniversary of the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Newsom, a Democrat who easily won reelection in November, said Republican leaders "cry freedom but dictate choices people are allowed to make."

"And yet, there are still forces in America that want to take the nation backward," he said. "We saw that two years ago, on this day, when the unthinkable happened at a place most Americans assumed was invincible. An insurrectionist mob ransacking a sacred pillar of our democracy, violently clashing with sworn officers upholding the rule of law.

"Since that terrible day, we've wrestled with what those events say about us, as a country," the governor added. "The ugliness that overflowed on January 6, 2021, was in fact decades in the making. Fomented by people who have a very different vision of America's future."

Newsom led a People's March before his inauguration, which went from the Tower Bridge to the Capitol Mall in downtown Sacramento. Among those taking part was Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, who herself was sworn into a second term January 5.

LGBTQ leaders heralded the start of Newsom's second four-year term.

"Congratulations, @CAGovernor @GavinNewsom, on your inauguration!" tweeted lesbian state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). "I look forward to continuing to work with you to tackle the important issues facing our great state."

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) was also pleased.

"I congratulate Governor Newsom on his inauguration, and look forward to working with him to tackle critical challenges facing California like the housing shortage, the mental health crisis, and the upcoming fiscal cliff for public transportation," Wiener stated to the Bay Area Reporter.

Held outdoors at Plaza de California, a park near the Capitol, Newsom was sworn in by new California Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero, whom Newsom had administered the oath of office to just a few days earlier, on January 2. His family surrounded him: first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and their children Montana, Hunter, Brooklynn, and Dutch. Newsom joked at the top of his remarks that during his first inauguration four years ago, he was holding then-2-year-old Dutch in his arms.

"I've been thinking a lot about time," Newsom, a San Francisco native, said. He recalled as a child of divorced parents and who had dyslexia he did not want to go to school. Finally, one day his father, the late Judge William Newsom, picked him up one day "in his VW bus and took me to Chinatown."

"I entered a completely different realm," Newsom recalled.

Later in his speech, he pointed out that Chinatown was a remnant of racist laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act, which curbed Chinese immigration, and exclusionary zoning that prevented minorities from owning property in certain areas.

California also had its homophobic hate with the Briggs initiative in 1978, Newsom said. That ballot measure, which voters rejected, would have banned gays and lesbians from working as schoolteachers.

"It was our 1970s version of 'Don't Say Gay,'" Newsom said, referring to the law signed last year by Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that bans classroom discussion or teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

"These politicians play on fears, prejudices, and paranoia," he said. "They're promoting grievance and victimhood, in an attempt to erase so much of the progress you and I have witnessed in our lifetimes.

"They make it harder to vote and easier to buy illegal guns," Newsom said. "They silence speech, fire teachers, kidnap migrants, subjugate women, attack the Special Olympics, and even demonize Mickey Mouse. All camouflaged under a hijacking of the word 'freedom.'"

California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson responded to Newsom's inaugural in a statement.

"If Gavin Newsom's first four years as governor are any indication of what's to come, Californians are in for a rough ride," she stated. "Newsom's first-term record includes three straight years of population decline, an outrageous cost of living, a mounting homeless crisis that now includes half of the nation's unsheltered people, failing schools, inadequate water storage, lies about wildfire prevention efforts, and a commitment to release tens of thousands of violent criminals from prison early.

"Whether lecturing red states, plotting a laughable White House run, or making the rounds on cable news, the only lesson he's actually teaching the nation is how to move your state in the wrong direction," Patterson added.

Marriage equality

The governor mentioned his own history-making effort to jump-start marriage equality back in 2004 when he was San Francisco's mayor and ordered city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"It felt like history was moving at light-speed," he said of what became known as the Winter of Love, "but it was snatched away by the backlash in 2008."

That year, Golden State voters passed Proposition 8, a same-sex marriage ban. Lawsuits followed, culminating in a federal trial in 2010. In August 2010, following the trial, Judge Vaughan Walker, who was appointed by former President George H.W. Bush, ruled that Prop 8 was indeed unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Walker's ruling could go into effect, two years before the nation's highest court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. Walker came out as gay after his ruling and retired from the bench in 2012.

"Just a few weeks ago, President [Joe] Biden enshrined the freedom to marry," Newsom said, referring to the Respect for Marriage Act the president signed December 13.

The new law repeals the discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act" that Congress passed in 1996 but had key provisions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 (Section 3, U.S. v. Windsor) and 2015 (Section 2, Obergefell v. Hodges). Not only does it require federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages nationwide it also mandates states must recognize such unions performed in other states. The act includes protections for religious liberty.

While Newsom talked about the many positives California is known for — "a state of dreamers and doers," he said — he also noted the low points in the state's history. "I'm mindful that California's statehood is sealed with the brutal genocide of Native American people," he said.

The overarching message of freedom was at the center of his speech.

"In our finest hours, California has been freedom's force multiplier, protecting liberty from a rising tide of oppression taking root in statehouses — weakness, masquerading as strength. Small men in big offices," the governor said.

"More than any people, in any place, California has bridged the historical expanse between freedom for some, and freedom for all. We open our arms, not clench our fists. We turn our gaze upward, not inward," he added.

"Freedom is our essence, our brand name — the abiding idea that right here, anyone from anywhere can accomplish anything," Newsom said.

Updated, 1/6/23: This article has been updated with a response from the California Republican Party and a comment from state Sen. Scott Wiener.

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