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San Diego Has History Of Starkly Opposing Opinions On Gay Marriage

Mayor Sanders Gay Marriage

UPDATE June 26: Former Mayor Sanders has released a statement on Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling regarding Proposition 8:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling marks a significant victory for our country and for marriage equality. This means that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced, and I am glad that Governor Brown is already pushing for same-sex marriages to resume in California.

As many of you know, this issue is very personal for me and for my family. I will continue to speak out on this issue until equality is provided for all couples.”

Six years ago, then-Mayor Jerry Sanders stood in front of reporters at City Hall to offer them an explanation.

Word was that he was planning to veto a City Council resolution opposing Proposition 8, the measure meant to bar gay couples from getting married in California. But when Sanders showed up to a hastily-planned press conference, he said something reporters weren't expecting.

Through tears, he told them that he had been wrong. He could not look at members of his staff, residents of his city or his own daughter and tell them that their relationships meant less than his own, he said. He did not veto the resolution.

Video of the press conference went viral and is still available on YouTube.

Sanders told KPBS last year that his very public change of heart brought with it criticism from proponents of Proposition 8. He said facing those criticisms was worth it.

"I think there finally comes a time when you say 'I've got to do what's right,'" Sanders said. "It becomes a very personal decision at that point."

Though Sanders was held up as an example of how long-held attitudes and beliefs toward gay marriage could change, the about-face of another prominent San Diego figure was not as well received.

Doug Manchester, a hotelier who eventually purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2010, handed over $125,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign.

His donation brought on a boycott of three of his hotels, including the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Eventually, Manchester issued an apology that was posted on the Manchester Financial Group's website. It noted that he was not anti-gay and that he was in favor of domestic partnerships and civil unions. Gay marriage, however, was not mentioned in Manchester's "in favor of" list.

He also promised thousands of dollars to an organization that promotes civil unions. The Manchester Grand Hyatt, which was the main focus of the Manchester hotels boycott, was eventually handed over to the Hyatt chain of hotels.

When Manchester purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune, many in the LGBT community shared concerns that his feelings on gay marriage would work to change coverage of that community.

Other groups including churches, conservative groups and even the Asian Heritage Coalition came out in favor of Proposition 8 and stuck to those opinions.

The Grossmont Union High School District, for example, was the only school district in the entire state to pass a resolution in favor of Proposition 8.

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