San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders has entered the fight against Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage measure on next month’s ballot, at least by proxy. The Sanders family imprimatur comes in the form of a fund-raising email dispatched by his daughter Lisa, touting her father’s flip-flop on same-sex marriage a year ago last month. “As a former chief of police and a Republican Mayor of the City of San Diego, my Dad displayed a special kind of courage when he announced his support for the freedom to marry,” Lisa’s statement says. “He held a public news conference announcing his support for me — He said that it is wrong for our society to give one set of rights to one set of people and a different, second-class set of rights to me. Now Prop 8 threatens to destroy the work my father and so many other brave and hard-working people have done to make marriage rights equal in California.”
It may make a good fund-raising message now, but it doesn’t entirely comport with history. The tearful public acknowledgement by Sanders of his daughter’s sexual orientation — said by sources to have been hastened by threats of others to disclose it to a wide audience first — was accompanied by an endorsement of gay marriage. But the mayor wasn’t eager to elaborate. Emails later divulged by the mayor’s office under the state Public Records Act reveal that his then–press secretary Fred Sainz, also gay, slammed the lid on requests from national media for interviews with Sanders, who had previously voiced opposition to same-sex marriage. When asked by a CNN producer to provide still photos of Sanders and Lisa together, Sainz said he didn’t have any, and even if he did, “We would not give them out.” Sainz added that “The Mayor’s reason for referring to her — with her full knowledge, permission and concurrence — was to lend perspective to the issue — humanize it — and explain to his constituents why this issue was so deeply personal for him.” Sainz’s email concluded, “Jerry has said everything that he intends to say about this issue.”
Sainz also turned down the legal editor of the Daily Journal in San Francisco, who wanted the mayor to produce an op-ed piece for the paper elaborating on his “recent endorsement of gay marriage in California.” Wrote Sainz: “With no disrespect at all, please understand that the Mayor has said everything about this issue that he intends to say.”
But with Prop 8 now trailing in the polls, Sanders — who some say has begun to covet statewide office such as secretary of state or lieutenant governor — appears no longer quite as reluctant to tackle the issue and may even go so far as carrying out an expanded schedule of public appearances on behalf of Prop 8 opponents.