Sunday, September 23, 2007

One Man's Change of Heart

How does a person - a politician - a Republican - a "traditional family values" man - who advocated strongly against gay marriage - get to the point of changing his stance on such a controversial issue?

It's when he realizes that the people in his life of whom he loves - are gay. It's when the issue no longer is black and white. It's when he's forced to live in the gray because denying the rights of "those people" means also denying the rights of his own family and friends.

Last week, San Diego mayor, Jerry Sanders, showed that he had a change of heart regarding the issue of marriage equality:

Pressconfsm (Thanks to JJ for the video lead!)

Four years ago, his daughter told him that she was in a committed relationship with a woman. Two years ago, as he campaigned for mayor, he held a position against gay marriage. He thought that civil unions were a sufficient "alternative". He pledged to veto any support of gay marriage . . . .

Now, as mayor he announced that he has had a change of heart and supports equal protection and recognition of same-sex relationships under the law. He has decided not to veto the San Diego City Council's (5-3) decision for a resolution in support of marriage equality for LGBT Americans. San Diego, with its 62,000 gay households, joins cities like Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Oakland in such a resolution.

I was proud to be a citizen and resident of Long Beach last year when our own city council voted unanimously (with the support of our mayor) for a resolution supporting marriage equality. Theirs went a step further by urging state and federal legislatures to pass law protecting our rights. According to the federal census in 2000, Long Beach has approximately 80,000 gay or lesbian residents. That's about 20% of our city's population.

Here's a copy of the City of Long Beach's Resolution on Marriage Equality (pdf)

The fight for marriage equality continues because it's state law that needs to be changed in order to have full legal recognition. But we're one step closer as cities continue to step up and take a stand for justice. I've never felt like my role was to be a political activist for this cause. I do believe that organizations like Equality California are needed for such advocacy. I believe my role to be that of a relational catalyst - encouraging people to be authentic through relationships because that's when the issue becomes more real for people when it does come time to vote.

Change can happen when both activists and catalysts continue to do their work. Activists bring the issue to the forefront of society's attention. They herald for systemic change. Catalysts bring the issue to the forefront of our relationships. We herald for community change.

Sometimes it's difficult, and even discouraging, dealing with stubborn people who seem so set in their ways. It's good to see that relationships actually do make a difference in changing hearts, minds and eventually the law.


Dennis said...

That was a beautiful speech. It's amazing that if everyone came out, everyone would know someone that was gay and I have to wonder if this would still even be a question. Thanks, Eric.

Anonymous said...


I have to agree with Dennis!! When the link was sent to me it made me cry...if we all just focued on what we have in common instead of what was different, then we could live in true community as we are called!!!

Love ya

Becky O

Anonymous said...

this was such a thought-provoking and heartfelt many authentic political speeches are given anymore? as he said, everyone deserves to have the opportunity to have a committed relationship protected by law.

Steve F. said...

Once the former senator Sam Ervin died, I'd almost despaired of ever seeing another politician with even a shred of personal integrity.

Thank you for showing me one. The whole "hope-for-humanity" meter ticked up a couple notches after I saw that.