SAN DIEGO – Mayor Jerry Sanders abruptly reversed his public opposition to same-sex marriage Wednesday after revealing his adult daughter is gay.
Sanders also signed a City Council resolution supporting a legal fight to overturn California's prohibition on same-sex marriages. He previously said he would veto the resolution.
Sanders, a Republican former police chief, told reporters that he could no longer back the position he took during his election campaign two years ago, when he said he favored civil unions but not full marriage rights for homosexual couples.
"Two years ago, I believed that civil unions were a fair alternative," he said at a press conference. "Those beliefs, in my case, have since changed. The concept of a 'separate but equal' institution is not something that I can support."
He fought back tears as he said he wanted his adult daughter, Lisa, and other gay people he knows to have their relationships protected equally under state laws.
"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," Sanders said.
The mayor, who is up for re-election next year, acknowledged that many voters who supported his earlier stance may disagree, but said he had to do what he believed was right.
Lisa Sanders was unavailable for comment, according to the mayor's spokesman, Fred Sainz. He said she had told her parents four years ago that she is a lesbian and is currently in a committed relationship, but her orientation wasn't public until her father's speech.
The City Council voted Tuesday 5-3 in favor of joining other California cities in supporting a challenge to the same-sex marriage ban currently pending before the state Supreme Court.
The court is expected to rule sometime next year on whether to uphold a lower court decision that found the same-sex marriage ban to be constitutional.
The lawsuits grew out of the high court's decision to invalidate marriage licenses issued to gay and lesbian couples who flocked to San Francisco in 2004, after Mayor Gavin Newsom instructed city officials to allow the couples to wed.
Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Jose and Santa Cruz are among cities that have already filed friend of the court briefs in favor of same-sex marriages.
Councilwoman Toni Atkins, who raised the motion, argued that state residents should be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientations.
Opponents argued that San Diego voters had already expressed opposition to same-sex marriage by voting in favor of Proposition 22, a 2000 measure that prohibited state agencies from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
On Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would veto a bill redefining marriage as a civil contract between two people that was approved by legislators last week. He said he would not reconsider the position and vowed to keep vetoing similar measures unless voters overturn an anti-gay marriage initiative endorsed by 61 percent of voters in 2000.
Schwarzenegger has until Oct. 14 to act on the measure.