Jerry Sanders: Proud to Testify for Marriage Equality

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I was proud to testify this week in what I believe will soon be seen as one of the defining civil rights cases of our time, Perry v. Schwarzenegger. I did so as a Republican mayor, a father, and a former police chief with over 26 years of experience on the force. But I also testified as an American who has seen the effects of discrimination - and who believes that discrimination against anyone, anywhere, is unacceptable.

My thinking on this important issue has evolved significantly in the past few years. Not long ago, I believed that civil unions were an acceptable alternative for same-sex couples. Like many people, I mistakenly thought there was no difference between a civil union and a marriage.

My eyes were opened in 2007, when I had to decide whether to support a ban on same-sex marriage in my capacity as mayor of San Diego. Through conversations with friends and supporters, I realized that my position was inconsistent with one of my core principles as a police officer and as mayor, which is that every community deserves to be treated with equal dignity and respect.

The irony is that I held this mistaken view about marriage equality even though my oldest daughter, Lisa, is a lesbian. When she was growing up, Lisa was my constant companion on weekends as I ran errands and did chores around the house. I called her my shadow. We are as close as a father and daughter can be, and when she came out to her family, my wife and I told her we loved her and only wanted her to be happy.

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