The mayor of San Diego and his lesbian daughter made emotional pleas in San Francisco today for the legalization of same-sex marriage as a federal trial on the issue moved into its second week.
Mayor Jerry Sanders, 59, a Republican and former police chief, testified at the trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.
The trial, on a lawsuit filed by two same-sex couples seeking to overturn California’s Proposition 8, is the first federal trial in the nation on a U.S. constitutional challenge to a ban on gay marriage.
Sanders told the court he initially opposed same-sex marriage but changed his views after learning that one of his daughters is a lesbian who wanted to marry her partner.
“I believe the government should allow everyone to get married in exactly the same way,” Sanders said.
At a news conference following the testimony, Sanders and his daughter Lisa, 26, both argued that Proposition 8 is discriminatory.
Sanders admitted to choking up at times during his testimony, but said, “It’s an emotional issue.”
He said, “I came to the trial to say that we can’t allow one group of people to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.
“I think that denying marriage equality is just as wrong as telling blacks they can’t drink from a white-only fountain,” Sanders said.
Sanders said, “I realized that I was (previously) saying that the relationship of my daughter and her partner Megan is not as important as the relationship I have with my wife. I was wrong about that.”
Lisa Sanders said, “It’s important that we’re all created equal and treated equally.”
Lisa Sanders and her partner, Megan Yaple, 26, were married last month in Vermont, one of five states that currently allow gay and lesbian marriage.
But Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for sponsors of Proposition 8, asserted at the news conference that Sanders’ testimony, while heartfelt, was “legally irrelevant.”
Pugno said, “What we saw again today was essentially emotional testimony about feelings.
“Testimony by the mayor of San Diego or anyone else about feelings does not change the Constitution,” the attorney said.
Pugno said the Proposition 8 sponsors contend that the measure does not deny equal rights because, in their view, gay marriage is not in fact the same as marriage between a man and a woman.
“Our whole argument is that there is no relationship like heterosexual marriage,” Pugno said.
Proposition 8, approved by voters on Nov. 4, 2008, amended the California Constitution to provide that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
It overturned a ruling in which the California Supreme Court had said the state Constitution gives a right to same-sex marriage.
In the lawsuit now being tried, couples Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Burbank took a different tack and argued that Proposition 8 violates their federal constitutional rights to due process and equal treatment.
Walker, who is hearing the case without a jury, will decide those claims in a written ruling issued sometime after the trial ends next week. The case is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme court eventually.