San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders may have provided some of the most important testimony in Perry v. Schwarzenegger – but not because he spoke to the suit’s legal issues. Instead, Sanders embodies something more significant: The crest of public opinion that is rising to support marriage for same-sex couples.
In January, Sanders took the stand to confess his own anti-gay beliefs, to recount his change of heart, and to say why it is important for government to disown prejudice of all kinds. He was a unique Perry witness for two reasons: First, he had the courage to admit his own prejudice. Second, although he now supports gay marriage, Sanders represents a demographic that is not particularly likely to do so.
But while Sanders’ story was unique at trial, it is not unique in American society. If we believe public opinion polls showing that gay marriage is moving toward moderate acceptance, then his story of conversion can be told by millions of Americans. As such, it is emblematic of a great social change and deserving of special attention.