In 2007, GOP mayor took a risk

Jerry San­ders’ re­ver­sal on same-sex mar­riage helped shift public opin­ion years ago.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Tony Perry

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion mak­ing same-sex mar­riage le­gal in all 50 states, much at­ten­tion has been fo­cused on the bold ac­tions of the Demo­cratic mayor of San Fran­cisco in 2004.

But the ac­tions of a Repub­li­can mayor in San Diego may also be said to have played a role in help­ing to shift public opin­ion.

The year was 2007, and the City Coun­cil had voted to join a law­suit pend­ing be­fore the Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court at­tempt­ing to over­turn a ban on gay mar­riage.

Mayor Jerry San­ders had vowed to veto the coun­cil ac­tion. His views were in line with the stan­dard GOP stance that civil unions for same-sex cou­ples were ac­cept­able, but not mar­riage.

But then San­ders abruptly re­versed his op­po­si­tion and an­nounced, “I’ve de­cided to lead with my heart ... to take a stand on be­half of equal­ity and so­cial jus­tice.”

He said he could not tell his daugh­ter, Lisa, who is gay, that her re­la­tion­ship with her part­ner was less im­por­tant than that of a straight cou­ple.

A video of San­ders’ tear­ful an­nounce­ment went vi­ral. Just a week ear­lier he had an­nounced his re­elec­tion bid.

Pun­dits pre­dicted San­ders may have ru­ined his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture in the Repub­li­can Party. Same-sex mar­riage op­po­nents held ral­lies.

In an ed­i­to­rial, The Times sug­gested it was easy for San Fran­cisco Mayor Gavin New­som or var­i­ous Los An­ge­les lead­ers to sup­port same-sex mar­riage but San­ders’ re­ver­sal “makes him vul­ner­a­ble.” He had shown, the ed­i­to­rial said, “a spe­cial brand of lead­er­ship.”

In the years that fol­lowed, San­ders has fol­lowed through, sup­port­ing the po­lit­i­cal and le­gal op­po­si­tion to Propo­si­tion 8 and trav­el­ing to Washington to join a na­tional coali­tion of may­ors fa­vor­ing mar­riage equal­ity.

He was re­elected easily in 2008 and re­mains un­doubt­edly the most pop­u­lar po­lit­i­cal fig­ure in San Diego.

On Fri­day, San­ders, now chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Cham­ber of Com­merce, was at­tend­ing a re­elec­tion fundraiser for Mayor Kevin Faulconer when his wife called with news about the high court de­ci­sion. She was elated.

“She was whoop­ing it up,” San­ders said. He de­clined any credit for him­self in the shift of public opin­ion and praised those who “have had the courage to step for­ward and say they are gay.”

And he ex­pressed sur­prise that the four dis­sent­ing jus­tices had “not taken the op­por­tu­nity to be on the right side of history.”

Jeff Chiu As­so­ci­ated Press

FOR­MER San Diego Mayor Jerry San­ders, shown with his daugh­ter, Lisa, and her wife in 2010, said his daugh­ter and her re­la­tion­ship helped change his mind.

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