Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prop 8 Trial Coverage Day 6: A Change of Heart for Marriage Equality

Guest blogger Davina Kotulski of DavinaKotulski.com reports on the Prop 8 trial, day 6.

Driving rain and wind gusts of up to 51 mph reported in San Francisco. Day 6 of the Prop 8 trial begins. Today’s witnesses are Lee Badget, Williams Institute, UCLA, Jerry Sanders, current mayor of San Diego who has a lesbian daughter, and Ryan Kendall, a gay man who experienced conversion therapy.

The morning started with Judge Walker having a bit of a challenge with Mr. Cooper whose response to Walker’s question about when he would return a response in regard to discovery and he stated to City Attorney Dennis Herrera, “Attorney, Mr. Flynn needs counseling on proper objections in deposition. Do a little wood-shedding of some of your lawyers.”

Dennis Hererra then called Mayor Jerry Sanders to the stand.

Jerry Sanders is a Republican, mayor for 4 years of San Diego. He’s in his second term. Sanders was a 1973 police recruit, Sgt. in 1979, policing squads of officers, Lt, 1981, swat commander, director of Police Academy, 1986 promoted to Captain, Commander 1990, Asst. Chief, Chief of Police 1993, retired in 1999, United Way 1999-2002. He is on his second marriage and has two daughters, Jamie straight, Lisa lesbian.

Sanders said Lisa “called in her sophomore year of college said she wanted to talk to us in person. When she got home, she sat down and told us she was a lesbian and in a lesbian relationship.”

He said that when she told him he “felt an overwhelming love, but I realized how difficult it was for her (emotion in voice) to come out to her parents. We told her that we loved her more than we ever would and we would support her every step of the way. I thought it was tough on gay people in society, I was proud of her for letting us know.”

Sanders was a police officer in San Diego for 26 years and said “I’d seen what happened to people who were gay. It was the 1970s, San Diego was very conservative. We had a Sergeant who came out and told us he was gay and he was literally driven out of the police department. I’ve seen violence against the gay community simple because people were gay, gay bashings, death in the early 90s, I heard the slurs and the comments that people make.”


"I used to believe civil unions were a fair alternative. In September 2007, the city of San Diego, City Council passed a resolution supporting San Francisco in a lawsuit in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples. I had to make a decision to veto or sign the resolution - my decision was to sign the resolution.”

Sanders stated that his previous belief that civil unions are fair is grounded in prejudice and when he realized that he was prejudiced he decided not to veto the resolution in support of marriage equality.

You can see the videotape of the press conference on why he is signing resolution in support of marriage equality on YouTube.

Here is a transcription.
“My plan was to veto the resolution. My opinion on this issue (gay marriage) has evolved. The arrival of the resolution, to sign or to veto, in my office late last night, forced me to reflect and search my soul for the right thing to do. I’ve decided to lead with my heart, which is probably obvious at the moment. (He says choked up with emotion.) To do what I think is right and to take a stand on equality and social justice. The right thing for me to do is to sign this resolution.

For three decades, I’ve worked to bring justice, enlightenment, and equality to all parts of our community. As I reflected on the choices I had before me last night, I 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.

A decision to veto this resolution would have been inconsistent with the values I’ve embraced over the past thirty years. I do believe that times have changed and with changing time and new life experiences come different opinions. Two years ago I believed civil unions were a fair alternative. Those beliefs in my case have changed. The concept of a separate, but equal, institution is not something I can support.

I have close family members, friends and members of my personal staff who are gay. I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones—to for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and who loves them back. Someone whom they can grow old together and share life’s experiences, and I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law. In the end, I couldn’t look them in the face and tell them that their relationship, their lives, were any less meaningful then the life I share with my wife.”
In his testimony Sanders shared that “gay people would walk by my house and tell me ‘we are a family just like you are,’ and they shared with me how marriage discrimination hurt them.”

“I supported the resolution because I think it is in the interest of government. I know how easy it is to discriminate against people when you see it in the leadership” Sanders said. “If government tolerates discrimination for any reason it’s an excuse for the public to act the same way, and this had led to violence against gays and lesbians in San Diego.”

Sanders went on to say that “when the government denies fundamental rights to people it empowers others to commit hate crimes.”

“In the early days, there were a lot of gay bashings.” Sanders reported in his testimony. “Young men would get drunk and go out and gay bash people. In 2006, an individual brought a baseball bat to gay pride and beat several people with a baseball bat, and almost beat one man to death.”

Sanders spoke about how when he “was a young cop in the 70s, I participated in the slurs and the comments in the locker room. There was a sergeant who was a good cop and he was driven out of the force. I felt fundamentally that was not right!”

When discussing his own prejudice, Sanders asked, “How can someone who has been committed to equality for all people be prejudiced against anyone? I was on the board of director for Christians and Jews, I was a board chair, I participated in diversity workshops, two rounds of diversity training with the city, yet the fact that I still believed that civil unions were equal, really shook me, because the decision I made was grounded in prejudice, I was discriminating against my own daughter and her relationship.”

Sanders spoke about his daughter-in-law, Megan who married his daughter, Lisa in Vermont in December 2009. “She’s been an excellent partner for my daughter, but Megan is like another piece of my family…they deserve to have the same rights.”

When asked what he thought of the Yes on 8 campaign materials, Sanders said, “I don’t know why children would need to be protected from my daughter, Lisa, who is the most loving compassionate person I know.”


Brian Raum began the cross-examination of Mayor Sanders.

Raum is asking Mayor Sanders questions to show that his belief that there is no discrimination against LGBT people because there are openly gay and lesbian members of city council, there are fewer hate crimes against gays since the 1970s when he first started working in the police department, and because the police department has worked to reach out to improve relationships with the gay and lesbian community.

Raum is showing Sanders a Yes Prop 8 commercial. “Marriage between a man and a woman is hardly a controversial idea….Marriage binds men and women for one reason the raising of children.”

The rest of the commercial talks about how the supporters of Prop 8 have called Yes on 8 supporters “intolerant, offensive, bigots,” and how they vandalized and stole Yes on 8 signs, damaged the property of Yes on 8 supporters and intimidated Yes on 8 supporters.

Raum is making the case that No on 8 people were violent against Yes on 8 supporters. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that I personally experienced intimidation on numerous occasions by Yes on 8 people in my own neighborhood.

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