Mayor Has 'Change Of Heart,' Signs Gay Marriage Brief

An emotional Mayor Jerry Sanders revealed Wednesday that his daughter is gay as he signed a legal brief asking the state's high court to overturn a prohibition on same-sex marriage, which he had vowed not to do.

The San Diego City Council voted 5-3 Tuesday to join Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Jose and Oakland in the amicus brief, or so-called "friend-of-the-court" resolution in support of gay marriages.

Through his spokesman, Sanders had pledged Tuesday to veto the council's decision to join the legal brief on the grounds that he supports civil unions, and not same-sex marriages.

But Sanders, flanked by his wife, told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he had a "change of heart" after some soul-searching.

"I have close family members and friends who are members of the gay and lesbian community," Sanders said, choking back tears. "Those folks include my daughter Lisa, as well as my personal staff."

Mayoral spokesman Fred Sainz said it was the first time Sanders went public about his daughter's sexual orientation.

"I want for them the same thing we all want for our loved ones -- for each of them to find a mate who they love deeply and who loves them back, someone who they can grow old together (with) and share life's experiences.

"I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law," the mayor said, fighting to get his words out.

"In the end, I couldn't look any of them in the face and tell them their relationship, their very lives, were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife Rana."

Earlier this month, the City Council deadlocked on the issue.

On Tuesday, Councilmen Tony Young, Brian Maienschein and Kevin Faulconer cast the dissenting votes against joining the brief. They did not provide a reason for their votes.

Councilwoman Donna Frye cast the deciding vote. She said she always supported same-sex marriage, but originally voted against the proposal because she was concerned about the lack of public notice.

Councilwoman Toni Atkins, who is gay, said the ability to marry the person of your choosing is a "fundamental constitutional right."

Hundreds packed the council chamber Tuesday to voice their opinions on both sides of the gay marriage debate.

Proponents argued that the issue is about civil rights.

Others said the issue was settled in 2000 with the passage of Proposition 22, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman only.

Councilman Jim Madaffer Wednesday commended Sanders for reversing his stance and "leading with his heart and making a decision based on what he believes and not what politics dictate."

"This was a difficult decision for many of us on the City Council, and I'm sure it was for the mayor also," Madaffer said. "We all had to search deep within and stand up for what we believe is the right thing to do, which is protect the civil rights of all people."

Sanders said vetoing the resolution would have been "inconsistent" with the values he has embraced over the past 30 years.

"For three decades, I have worked to bring enlightenment, justice and equality to all parts of our community," the former San Diego police chief said.

"As I reflected on the choices I had before me last night, I just could not bring myself to tell an entire group of people in our community they were less important, less worthy or less deserving of the rights and responsibilities of marriage than anyone else simply because of their sexual orientation."

The mayor, a Republican, acknowledged that not everyone will understand why he changed his position on the issue.

"I acknowledge that not all members of our community will agree, or perhaps understand my decision today," Sanders said. "All I can offer them is I am trying to do what is right."

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