A supporter of Proposition 8, fed up with what he believed was the gay community's and "liberal media's" refusal to accept the voters' verdict, fired off a letter to the editor.
"Please show respect for democracy," he wrote, in a letter we published.
What he encountered instead was an utter lack of respect for free speech.
Within hours, the intimidation game was on. Because his real name and city were listed - a condition for publication of letters to The Chronicle - opponents of Prop. 8 used Internet search engines to find the letter writer's small business, his Web site (which included the names of his children and dog), his phone number and his clients. And they posted that information in the "Comments" section of SFGate.com - urging, in ugly language, retribution against the author's business and its identified clients.
"They're intimidating people that don't have the same beliefs as they do ... so they'll be silenced," he told me last week. "It doesn't bode well for the free-speech process. People are going to have to be pretty damn courageous to speak up about anything. Why would anyone want to go through this?"
Diaz goes on to give his credentials as a card carrying supporter of gay rights and to reassure gay readers that they will eventually prevail. And he concludes with the "both sides" talking point I have noted before seems to be required of the media by the GLBTQ activists:
Intimidation, through attempts to chill free speech or an independent judiciary, should have no part in this debate. The leaders on both sides should have the honesty to recognize it within their camps - and the courage to condemn it.But don't blame John Diaz for reciting the required words. The Chronicle would have picketers and his own job would be on the line if he didn't.
In the news section, the Chronicle reported that the anti-Prop 8 rally at the California capital in Sacramento fizzled yesterday, only 5,000 showed up while organizers had intially forecasted 20,000. And their leaders were spouting the ugly rhetoric Diaz cautioned against. One of the speakers was Robin Tyler, one of the plaintiffs in Supreme Court case that resulted in the brief institution of gay marriage.
Tyler, a longtime activist for lesbian rights, argued that same-sex marriage opponents have no right to complain about any physical and verbal attacks they've encountered since election day.
"Get over it," she said. "It's easier to wash a paint stain off a church than to take off the stain they left on the California Constitution."
And comedian Margaret Cho sang a rather ugly song:
Cho, whose comedy routines are anything but G-rated, provided a song she wrote slamming Mormons for their support of the measure, ending with a chorus suggesting that voters not let the Mormons get away with what they did.
Well, the Chronicle published the 5,000 estimate, but the Sacramento Bee is putting it quite a bit lower. In a story published 22 hours ago, one reporter wrote "Thousands of gay rights supporters," but an article by a different reporter published 15 hours ago says:
It drew between 1,500 and 1,800 people to the Capitol's west steps.