Jerry Sanders, Mayor of San Diego, on marriage equality

Republicans often make me angry, indignant, and exasperated, but they rarely make me cry.

This morning, one did.

Yesterday, the Republican mayor of San Diego gave a press conference to explain why he was not going to veto a resolution City Council passed in support of marriage equality.

His words are moving, honest, and courageous, and they brought me to tears as I drank my coffee at my desk.

With me this afternoon is my wife, Rana.

I am here this afternoon to announce that I will sign the resolution that the City Council passed yesterday directing the city attorney to file a brief in support of gay marriage.

My plan, as has been reported publicly, was to veto that resolution, so I feel like I owe all San Diegans an explanation for this change of heart.

During the campaign two years ago, I announced that I did not support gay marriage and instead supported civil unions and domestic partnerships.

I have personally wrestled with that position ever since. My opinion on this issue has evolved significantly, as I think have the opinions of millions of Americans from all walks of life.

In order to be consistent with the position I took during the mayoral election, I intended to veto the council resolution. As late as yesterday afternoon, that was my position.

The arrival of the resolution–to sign or veto–in my office late last night forced me to reflect and search my soul for the right thing to do.

I have decided to lead with my heart–to do what I think is right–and to take a stand on behalf of equality and social justice. The right thing for me to do is to sign this resolution.

For three decades, I have worked to bring enlightenment, justice and equality to all parts of our community.

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

A decision to veto this resolution would have been inconsistent with the values I have embraced over the past 30 years.

I do believe that times have changed. And with changing time, and new life experiences, come different opinions. I think that’s natural, and certainly it is true in my case.

Two years ago, I believed that civil unions were a fair alternative. Those beliefs, in my case, have since changed.

The concept of a ‘separate but equal’ institution is not something that I can support.

I acknowledge that not all members of our community will agree or perhaps even understand my decision today.

All I can offer them is that I am trying to do what I believe is right.

I have close family members and friends who are members of the gay and lesbian community. These folks include my daughter Lisa and her partner, as well as members of my personal staff.

I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones: for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and who loves them back; someone with whom they can grow old together and share life’s wondrous adventures.

And I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law. In the end, I could not look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationships–their very lives–were any less meaningful than the marriage that I share with my wife Rana. Thank you.

It’s even more powerful to watch the video and hear the emotion in Sanders’ voice.

The sentences I bolded especially hit home. Here is a man who understands, apparently more than any of the top-tier Democratic candidates for President do.

Some of my friends think that I’m being unreasonable or impatient to expect the Democrats to take a stand for marriage equality. They think I should be grateful that they support civil unions and say, “at least they’re better than the Republicans.” Some even suggest that marriage equality is not an important issue and that I’m distracting from the real issues that “regular” people care about.

Hillary, Barack, John: I hope you listen to Mayor Sanders’ speech and ask yourselves the same questions he asked himself.

Will you take a stand on behalf of equality and social justice?

Can you bring yourself to tell an entire group of people in our country that they were less important, less worthy and less deserving of the rights and responsibilities of marriage, than anyone else, simply because of their sexual orientation?

Is your position on marriage equality consistent with the values you have embraced over your career?

Is the concept of a ‘separate but equal’ institution something that you can support?

Can you look me in the face and tell me that my relationship–my very life–is any less meaningful than the marriage that you share with your spouse?

Sadly, you’ve already answered these questions every time you give a tortured, convoluted rationalization for why you don’t support marriage equality. But Jerry Sanders cuts through the rhetoric and the political tap-dancing, and goes right to the heart of the matter. There’s simply no way to justify opposition to it other than to believe that some people are more equal than others.

Democrats, the ball is in your court.



  1. Shadylil said,

    September 23, 2007 at 8:28 pm


    That, my friend, is the face of courage. To eschew his party’s platform and stand up for what he believes is right.

  2. Curtis said,

    October 27, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    That is the face of weakness – to betray a stance that he took to get elected and then turn on the source of his power. It is not courage to ignore your constituency, it is tyranny and it is wrong. I am so tired of elected and other officials treating the law like their personal diary, every changing depending on their moods and totally ignorant of the people.

    A yes vote on Proposition 8 is a yes to families with a mother and father in the home and nothing could be more important to our society. There are exceptions and they should not be hated or persecuted, but the traditional family must be the standard.

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