My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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San Diego mayor backs same-sex marriage

In a tearful explanation to the San Diego community, Republican mayor Jerry Sanders explains why he decided that he would support the gay marriage bill. It’s a stunning display of courage, bound to turn the Republican party against him in order to do what’s right for his lesbian daughter, gay friends, and the San Diego community. I have to admit that I totally broke down crying listening to him and I hope that more elected officials have the courage he had to do what’s right rather than play to a religious-lead campaign of intolerance. (Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger still seems bent on vetoing the state bill that would define marriage as a civil contract between two people.)

For more coverage on this historical moment, click here.

Note: my personal belief is that marriage is a flawed institution and I would like to see it obliterated entirely. Given that this is not likely to happen, I strongly believe that everyone should have access to the rights afforded by such a commitment. I personally wish that there was more public discussion of those rights and the reasons behind why society supports unions. Those opposed to same-sex marriage are typically involved in myth making instead of reality checking. Many of us know painfully well that marriage does not inherently protect children nor does it guarantee that the partnership will last. Yet, we also know that marriage allows us to get access to our partners in times of medical crises, keep our foreign-born partners in the country, etc. Economists also know that marriage statistically reduces stupidity (thus, the logic behind cheapened car insurance and tax benefits in general). Functionally, marriage is a commitment that is rewarded economically and socially because it makes for a more stable and prosperous society. All signs seem to point towards the same being true for same-sex marriage so the objections to it are more philosophical than functional, rooted in intolerance rather than societal efforts towards a collective good.

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14 comments to San Diego mayor backs same-sex marriage

  • Thank you for sharing this Dana. It’s a pity we don’t see more of this kind of heartfelt honesty from Politicians, particularly in Australia.

    Regards,
    Alex

  • thanks. it’s sometimes nice to have tears well up on a Saturday morning. to paraphrase one YouTube commentator, America can sometimes rock.

  • I saw this on cable news, and actually did a quick search for in order to send him a note of appreciation & support.

    And I agree with your notes on marriage. I would like to see civil unions for pretty much anyone (adults) and ‘marriage’ for those who choose it, that being a private, often religious, matter. Government and economic benefits would be tied to civil unions.

  • How does one know, if a bit of dyslexia is present, whether the comment vanished into the waste can?

  • Maybe I am missing something really obvious. Why is this man sobbing? What’s going on emotionally? Why is his wife there?

  • M-H

    Like Daniel, I can’t quite work out why he is so emotional about this. I guess I’m missing something, but what is he crying about? His daughter being gay? The end of his career (I gather that he’s a Republican)? The damage he has done to gay people in the past with his intransigent views? We can only guess.

  • Steve

    I will agree that marriage is broken and often doesn’t accomplish what it is supposed to. But, it does seem that there is a need for some institution that can effectively harmonize the sexual bond and the reproductive bond. If not, how can we make the next generation happen effectively? How provide for nurture of the young?

    Giving up on marriage without some alternative means of effectively addressing these legitimate concerns would seem to be an exercise in mindless nihilism.

    If marriage 1.3 is full of bugs, then lets get to work toward marriage 2.1 (the bug fix release of marriage 2.0).

    Bottom line, kids need loving stability growing up. Marriage doesn’t always provide this, but what else is there?

    And, it would seem people take marriage to be about a partnership between two people. I think not.(Or at least not simply). There are many kinds of partnerships conceivably definable between two (or more) people. Marriage is traditionally about a partnership specifically devoted to the task of creating a family context within which to raise kids. Other kinds of partnerships could probably be defined, with appropriate rights as needed to support the goals of the partnership. Society should determine what kinds of partnerships there is a valid social interest in defining and supporting. But let’s reserve “marriage” for partnerships in raising a family.

    Just a thought,
    -Steve

  • Ealasaid

    “Marriage is traditionally about a partnership specifically devoted to the task of creating a family context within which to raise kids.”

    That is false. Marriage is “traditionally” about ownership (the man’s ownership of his wife and his children, and the labor of both) and politics (marriage as a way to cement two tribes/countries together), not a loving family. For example, marital rape was only outlawed comparatively recently in the history of marriage — and I believe it’s still legal in at least one state here in the US.

    A few cites: What Gay Marriage Teaches About the History of Marriage, A Brief History of Marriage, History of Marriage as an Institution.

    I give kudos galore to Jerry Sanders. It takes great courage to stand up to one’s political allies and do what one feels is right. Good for him!

  • Elaine

    Wow! I’m blown away by his courage. He truly lives up to his own ideals. If only more politicians had his courage I’d have more faith in the political process. I aspire to be as true to my own ideals!

  • Steve

    Ealasaid:
    “That is false. Marriage is “traditionally” about ownership (the man’s ownership of his wife and his children, and the labor of both) and politics (marriage as a way to cement two tribes/countries together), not a loving family. For example, marital rape was only outlawed comparatively recently in the history of marriage — and I believe it’s still legal in at least one state here in the US.”

    Certainly a tradition of marriage as ownership has existed in some times places and cultures. I think one would be hard put to find it in America, within the past 200 years, except perhaps as a minority remnant of earlier tendencies. Bear in mind that ownership of one individual by another has been illegal under the US Constitution for almost 150 years.

    The practice of marriage as politics still exists, but it is restricted to the wealthy and powerful.

    The plain fact is that without a stable environment within which to raise children, the existence of humankind as a civilized species would be flat out impossible. If marriage is not to provide this stability, how then is it to be accomplished? If marriage is to provide for the nurturing of the coming generation, why load it down with baggage that is not about that?
    (And I would include in that category most if not all of the nonsense that falls under the heading “romantic love” – as distinct from unselfish love).

    People who want to do different things in a partnership should seek to establish institutions suited for those – not hijack an institution that already have a valid and necessary role to play in the context of its previous purpose.

    -Steve

  • > my personal belief is that marriage is a flawed institution
    > and I would like to see it obliterated entirely

    Wow. I’m stunned by that statement.

    1) If something has flaws it needs to be obliterated?
    2) Because you see it as having flaws, you want to unilaterally obliterate it for everyone else?

    I really enjoy some of your insights, and I’ve enjoyed reading this blog. But the insularity and insensitivity and huge generalization of that statement just blows me away.

    I’m not saying you’re like this, but it reminds me of some on the more “left” (whatever that means anymore), “liberal” (probably just a placeholder term now), deconstructionist side of things who are unbelievably self-righteous and totalitarian.

  • This really was a wonderful and emotional moment. I read about it in the local (San Diego) paper the next morning and had tears in my eyes.

    Daniel: my understanding of the background is that City Council was trying to pass a measure wherein the City of San Diego would file a brief in support of gay marriage in the current lawsuit going through California courts. The mayor, as per his republican roots, had threatened a veto. The council probably had enough votes to override (it’s just a simple majority), so he could have gone ahead and done it while probably knowing it would have passed anyways. The fact that his daughter is gay was one of those known-in-political-circles-but-not-openly-discussed situations.

    So he went out and publicly changed his stance, something which will probably cause him damage in the republican primary. That’s not a light decision for anyone, but I might speculate it’s a pretty emotionally powerful subject if you feel you’ve been treating your daughter as a second-class citizen and now you’re going to stop. Just as it is moving to watch a man do what is right in the face of what is popular.

  • Elias

    I am way more of a fan of your note then some sappy guilty republican coming to a conclusion that we are in the 21st century and gay people are OK. Thanks!

    Marriage is a part of the same hetero sexist structure that represses gay people, women, and hell even men into specific roles, all focused on a nuclear family of a wife and husband to rear up kids.

    Although i come from two loving parents who are still married and were awesome to me growing up, I think if our society truly embraced acceptence and a collective responsibility for life (ie reject norms of social division like homelessness, abuse, racism, homophobia etc, and let’s not forget WAR) then we wouldnt need 2 specific parents, with specific gender roles. I hope the LGBT community will get on board with this perspective. I think it is within the grassroots, trans, young kids, POC groups etc. but not in the Rosie ODonnel lets just elect Barack Obama and everything will be OK camp….

  • Video link seems to be down…