Thursday, June 05, 2008

Remembering a Mayor's brave change of heart

Autumn Sandeen over at Pam’s House Blend has a post up today that reminded me of something that happened last September that really stirred up some conflicting emotions for me. On the one hand, I knew exactly what this man, the mayor of San Diego, and his wife must have been feeling and I trembled and cried right along with him as he tearfully explained that he was going to break a campaign promise he made 2 years earlier and sign a resolution that he had originally promised to veto.

The resolution, which the city council had already passed, would direct the city attorney to file a brief in support of gay marriage, something the he did not support when he was running for mayor.

But something profound happened in the interim that made this man realize how wrong he was to deny a whole segment of his community the same rights he enjoys: he found out one of the people he would be denying was his daughter, Lisa, who is a lesbian. And suddenly he was able to understand how truly wrong he was on the issue.

And this is when I felt a brief but pretty strong tinge of anger. Why is it that he could not understand how profoundly wrong it is to deny any minority the same rights that everyone else enjoys? Why did he see the light only after learning his own daughter would be affected? But then I realized that what this man was doing took incredible courage. He might very well have been committing political suicide right there on that stage, risking everything he’d worked for. And that is when I realized that I needed to let the anger go and look at the bigger picture. He was doing the right thing now, his career was secondary to the love he had for his daughter. And at that point I couldn’t help but forgive him. In fact I not only could forgive him, but I felt a great debt of gratitude for what he had just done. Here is a snippet of what he said, but you really need to watch the video to get the full impact of what this man did:

I just 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…


… Two years ago I believed that civil unions were a fair alternative. Those beliefs in my case have changed. The concept of separate but equal, uhh, the concept of a separate but equal institution is not something I can support.

I acknowledge that not all members of our community will agree or perhaps even understand my decision today. All I can offer them is that I am trying to do what I believe is right.

I have close family members and friends who are members of the gay community. Those folks include my daughter, Lisa, as well as members of my personal staff. I want for them the same thing we all want for our loved ones, for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and who loves them back. Someone with whom they can grow old together and share life experiences. And I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law. In the end, I couldn’t look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationship, their very lives were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife, Rana.

This video clip really reinforces for me why my husband and I have an obligation to let loved ones know that one of our children is gay. For most people it is just too damn hard to deny rights to a group of people when you happen to know and love someone who is a member of that group.

Oh and by the way, according to Autumn Sandeen, Mayor Jerry Sanders has once again won the office of Mayor -- there wasn’t even a run-off for him. So I guess it wasn’t political suicide after all – this man’s change of heart must have resonated with at least a few people.

Watch the video:



Anonymous said...

I'm also inclined to cut the guy some slack since he originally believed civil unions were a valid alternative. That seems to be a common misconception. And I think that is at least partly due to marriage equality supporters on the whole.

Truth be told, most people are not aware of the extent of the legal rammifications of a marriage. They don't understand just how unequal and dreadful denying same sex couples access to marriage really is. I even have supportive friends who are shocked when I start telling them about all the legal differences between a spousal relationship and an unmarried partnership. Personally, I think discovering that even our own allies don't have the best grasp on why this issue is so important is reason for concern.

And I think that's in part because the facts get skimmed over and even completely lost in all the hype.

Tracy said...

I wanted to respond to your post about coming out to potentially-not-so-supportive family, but never got back to the internet until now... My guide has always been some combination of these 3 things:

1) If they ask a question, give them an answer... Q: Is (your gay son) dating anyone?A: yes, he's met a wonderful guy that (husband) and I both really like . Or , No not since he broke up with (?)...

Anyway, I'm glad you're back blogging- thanks!

If someone isn't prepared for an answer to stupid, small-talk questions, they shouldn't make small talk. Some people try to make you feel like if you don't dodge these questions, you are bringing on the "conflicts" I think that is really the basis of what is unfair about this "debate"... Straight people get to talk about whatever boring nonsense floats into and out of their minds, but gay people have to spend a lot of energy worrying and hiding some parts of their lives and thoughts... Don't believe the lie.

2)Speak as if you are not speaking out for yourself or your son, but for someone who may be much more "trapped," "desperate," "frightened," or "alone..." It is really hard to (at least in my extended family of origin) to use energy "fighting for my own rights"... it feels un-necessarily self-promoting. But what if there is some other "cousin" out there, who doesn't have the love and support your son has in his parents... speak out and keep no secrets because you are giving a voice to those who are so buried in the closet, they might not survive unless they hear you tell them they are worthy of love... and

3) We need to stop using energy "protecting" people that we are related to that clearly don't worry about "protecting" us