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Mayor Sanders Applauds President’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Mayor Jerry Sanders tells KPBS he supports the president's change of heart on same-sex marriage.

Special Feature San Diego Mayor's Race

President Barack Obama made news today by becoming the first president to declare he supports same-sex marriage. The announcement, made during an interview with ABC news, ended months of equivocation by the president on the issue.

About five years ago, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders had a more drastic change of heart on the same issue. At a live press conference, he tearfully explained he decided not to veto a measure endorsing same-sex marriage because his daughter was gay.

Today, Sanders said he was thrilled with Obama's decision.

"I think there finally comes a time when you say I've gotta' do what's right, and I think that's exactly what the president's done, it's what I did," he said. "You know, it becomes a very personal decision at that point and you know that you can't look other people in the face and say I don't think you're as valuable as anybody else."

Sanders said, like Obama, he previously believed civil unions would be enough for gay couples, but both have since changed their minds.

"What it says is, for this class of people, civil unions are OK for you, but for everybody else we're going to call it marriage and let you marry," Sanders said. "So what they're saying to this class is you're not quite as good as everybody else."

Sanders added that his daughter's partner has become like a second daughter in his family.

All four candidates to be San Diego's next mayor also say they support gay marriage. Two, City Councilman Carl DeMaio and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, are openly gay.

While state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher told Voice of San Diego in 2010 that he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman," he also said then he doesn't think it's the government's job to "make that same determination for everyone else."

But in a recent interview with LGBT Weekly, Fletcher altered his view of the government's role.

He said if elected mayor, he would pick up Sanders' mantel as a champion for gay marriage.

"And just to make absolutely clear, you would stand up and fight for it?" the paper asked.

"Absolutely," Fletcher said.

Fletcher, a Marine veteran, also went against the Republican party by supporting the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. He has since left the GOP to become an independent.

Congressman Bob Filner, the only Democratic candidate for mayor, also has changed his opinion - or at least his voting record - on gay marriage.

He voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.

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Last month, Filner told LGBT Weekly he cast that vote because he has a cynical view of marriage, and regrets his decision.

"But, as a heterosexual person who’s been married, you can take quite a cynical view of marriage and wonder why would you want to – the last one took all my money; all my property," Filner said. "I mean if it doesn’t work out; then you’ve got to get divorced. As someone who’s been divorced a couple of times – and I don’t mean to make light of it – but I took it as: Like, why would you want this? I didn’t (consider) it deeply enough."

Filner has since voted against the Marriage Protection Act of 2004 and the 2004 and 2006 Constitutional amendments to establish that marriage consists of one man and one woman. He also voted for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

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