San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican who risked his political career by supporting gay marriage, applauded President Obama’s decision Wednesday to support marriage equality.
“As someone whose position has also evolved, I know this is an issue of equality and basic human rights,” Sanders said. “Two people who love each other should be able to get married. It’s really as simple as that. History will judge President Obama kindly for his decision.”
Sanders said he’s prepared to talk to Mitt Romney, the apparent GOP nominee for president, about the issue of same-sex marriage the next time Romney comes to San Diego for a political event or to visit his home in La Jolla.
“Absolutely,” Sanders said, “it’s an important issue. I think history will judge all of us on how we’ve treated this minority group.”
Romney opposes same-sex marriage.
Sanders, a former police chief, opposed same-sex marriage when he ran for mayor in 2005. But he reversed his position in 2007 during his reelection campaign, saying that his previous opposition stemmed from prejudice.
“I’ve decided to lead with my heart…to take a stand on behalf of equality and social justice,” he said at a tearful news conference.
His change of position put him at odds with parts of the Republican Party and also many of his constituents. In 2000, 62% of San Diego voters endorsed a statewide measure to restrict marriage to a union between a man and a woman.
Still, in 2008, Sanders was easily reelected.
At the federal trial over California’s Proposition 8, Sanders told the court that when his elder daughter, Lisa, was in college, she told him she was a lesbian and that he later changed his position about gay marriage after a meeting with gay friends and neighbors. He said he was shocked at how wounded they feel about being denied the right to marry.
The San Diego mayor this year joined a coalition of big-city mayors in a Washington news conference favoring a nationwide campaign to permit same-sex marriage.
–Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, his daughter Lisa, and her wife, Meaghan Yaple, outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco in January 2010 after his testimony against the anti-gay marriage measure Proposition 8. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press