Gay Lobby Blew It With Bill

A heterosexual can be straight-but-not-narrow. I voted against Proposition 8, the state initiative to ban gay marriage. In that context, indulge me this observation: The gay lobby has misfired. Lip service paid to a boycott of Doug Manchester-owned hotels has now officially become white noise.

Manchester is the polarizing owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego (as well as The Grand Del Mar and the Whitetail Club & Resort in McCall, Idaho). Before the 2008 election, Manchester donated $125,000 to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. Gay-rights activists called for a boycott and have reportedly diverted $2 million in business from the Hyatt.

But the gay-rights lobby blew it on Sunday. Ex-president Bill Clinton delivered a paid speech to the International Franchise Association at the Hyatt. Press reports said anywhere from "dozens" to "hundreds" showed up to protest. That's all? On a Sunday afternoon when no major civic events were taking place? Where was the grand show of righteous indignation?

Clinton got big bucks to present the speech. However, the gay-friendly, media-magnet ex-prez apparently wasn't hard-pressed enough to feel entering the hotel meant risking his standing in the gay community. Should the public now feel any different?

There are plenty of reasons to hold Manchester in public contempt. Devotees of "Papa Doug" laud his targeted benevolence, but plenty of others deride his propensity for raiding public coffers through litigation when his construction plans go astray, and labor leaders say he mistreats hotel workers.   

Gay-marriage proponents had the elephant in their gun sights, but they didn't pull the trigger. A potentially powerful ally smelled the largely indifferent air and thumbed his puffy honker at the boycott. And the insubstantial display of indignity outside the Hyatt was far from a motivating cry for support.

The local gay lobby could have exerted more effort to get Clinton to back out or have the speech moved to a different venue. Posting an e-letter three days before the event was too little, too late. A shot at the national spotlight was missed. 

Ron Donoho, formerly executive editor of "San Diego Magazine," is a regular contributor to who covers local news, sports, culture and happy hours.

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