Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007 | Days ago, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders made the stunning announcement that he would reverse course and support a measure by a majority on the City Council to officially include the city as a “friend of the court” signatory to a case before the California Supreme Court regarding gay marriage. The mayor’s announcement was remarkable, as he had run on a campaign of opposing efforts to allow gay marriage in the state. Some are calling his decision a brazen, ill-conceived political stunt. Others call the mayor courageous and humane.

Some of the leaders and members at the county Republican Party are making rumblings about the possibility of retracting their early endorsement of the mayor in his reelection bid in the 2008 elections. These Republicans are displeased with Mayor Sanders for one or both reasons: First, as mentioned, that he broke his original promise to oppose any gay marriage efforts in the city; and second, that the Mayor is disregarding the outcome of Proposition 22, which, in 2000, garnered 61 percent of the statewide vote in favor of banning gay marriage.

I believe any effort by the Republican Party to rescind their endorsement of Mayor Sanders in the upcoming elections would be ill advised. First and most importantly, the Republican Party — my party — bills itself as being a welcoming, diverse, “big tent.” Does the tent flap close at the approach of a gay or lesbian believer and supporter? I hope not, as I would not pass that litmus test. I’m a moderately conservative Republican who happens to be gay. And I’m not alone in that status.

Second, before it was ever known whether any other Republicans might jump into the race for mayor, the county party gave a surprisingly early endorsement to Jerry Sanders, on the basis that he was and is a known, reliable incumbent. This sudden endorsement of the mayor drew criticism from some of the party stalwarts. But it would look vindictive and reactionary for the party to now change its collective mind and say that Mayor Sanders is, upon further, after-the-fact reflection, no longer good enough to deserve the blessing of the county Republican Party.

Next, in explaining his decision to support the gay marriage brief to the court, Mayor Sanders brought up the notions of “separate but equal” and “lead with my heart.” It is difficult to imagine or accept that, in the earlier history of our nation, Americans condoned government-sanctioned laws of the land holding that members of certain groups were of lesser value in life than others. Today, those former beliefs and practices shock our consciences.

I am personally and deeply thankful that Mayor Sanders chose to “lead with [his] heart.” It is refreshing to see that kind of virtue in a politician. But then again, perhaps Sanders’ decision was not that of a politician, but rather that of a principled leader. San Diego can certainly use more of that kind of decision making from our elected officials. Our city government might not be in the broken-down position it’s in today if there was more principle, and less “politics.”

Finally, to those Republicans who question the motives of Mayor Sanders, I ask: Do you still revere and respect the likes of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Newt Gingrich? If so, remember, they too have “first blood” family members — children, grandchildren or siblings — who are gay or lesbian.

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