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San Diego mayor Sanders supports Gay marriage at SFO Prop. 8 trial
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San Diego mayor Sanders supports Gay marriage at SFO Prop. 8 trial

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

San Diego, California Mayor Jerry Sanders opposed Gay marriage - until he learned his daughter was a Lesbian in a committed relationship.

Sanders, the mayor of California's second-largest city, testified on January 19 during a federal trial on California's same-sex marriage ban, best known as Proposition 8.

The trial, now in its second week, is the first in a federal court to examine whether denying Gay and Lesbians the right to wed violates their constitutional rights. Throughout the trial, backers of Proposition 8 have tried to show the ballot measure was not motivated by entrenched prejudice towards Gays. Such a display of animosity would make it more difficult for the measure to pass constitutional muster.

Sanders, a Republican and former San Diego police chief, told the court that when his daughter, Lisa, now 26, was in college, she told him she was a Lesbian. He said that while he expressed his "overwhelming love" for her, he had concerns she would face discrimination.

Sanders said his change of heart was a defining moment in his personal life and his political career. He said he lost support within his party and had to work harder to be re-elected after he opposed Proposition 8. The backlash was so great that Sanders said that GOP leaders in San Diego were thinking of withdrawing their endorsement.

Lawyers for the challengers of Proposition 8 played a video of Sanders crying as he told a news conference he had changed his mind about Gay marriage.

Sanders testified that he was emotional because he had come so close to sending a message that Gay relationships were inferior to those between heterosexuals. "What hit me was that I had been prejudiced," he said. "I was absolutely shocked at the depth of the hurt, the depth of the feeling."

Brian Raum, a lawyer for Proposition 8 sponsors, cross-examined the mayor about his one-time opposition to Gay marriage. "You don't believe that you communicated hatred to the Gay and Lesbian community, did you?" he asked.

Sanders said he had not, but "it doesn't mean that I don't believe it was grounded in prejudice."

"You would agree that it's wrong for people to suffer violence as a result of their political views, would you not?" Raum asked.

"I would," Sanders agreed, adding he could not verify that supporters of the ban in San Diego experienced widespread harassment.

Raum also pressed Sanders to acknowledge that people could oppose same-sex marriage because they think it's in the best interests of children to be raised by their biological parents.

Sanders replied that such an ideal vision of heterosexual marriage is misinformed.

"I was a cop for 26 years, and I know there were a lot of children who did not benefit from child abuse, and they were being raised by their biological parents," he said.

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