Family makes a difference. Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders had a change of heart about gay marriage.

Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders cited his daughter as the main reason for reversing an earlier decision about a significant step for lesbians and gay men. Then he signed a City Council resolution supporting a challenge to California’s gay marriage ban.

“I’ve decided to lead with my heart, which is probably obvious right now, to do what I think is right and to take a stand on behalf of equality and social justice,” Sanders explained with surging emotion, while taking his new position during a press conference Wednesday.

In his 2005 mayoral campaign, the mayor said he supported civil unions and domestic partnerships but not gay marriage.

“I have personally wrestled with that opinion ever since. My opinions on this issue have evolved significantly as I think the opinions of millions of Americans from all walks of life have.”

He went on, “As I reflected on the choices that I had before me last night I could just not bring myself to tell an entire group of people in our community they were less important, less worthy or less deserving of the rights and responsibilities of marriage than anyone else simply because of their sexual orientation.”

About the lesbians and gay men in his life, the mayor concluded, “I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones. For each of them to find a mate, whom they love deeply and who loves them back. Someone who they can grow old together and share life’s experiences, and I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law.”

Sanders is a former police chief who is up for re-election next year. He acknowledged that many voters who supported his earlier stance might disagree with his new position.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said,

“San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ emotional statement brought me – and I know millions of other gay and lesbian people – to tears. Simply, directly, and most importantly from the heart, he said what we yearn to hear from our leaders – that our relationships are just as meaningful and just as deserving of the same protections as everyone else’s. Mayor Sanders will go into the history books as a profile in courage and conviction. He stands in stark contrast to Governor Schwarzenegger’s threatened veto of the marriage equality bill that will be on his desk within days and to leading Democratic presidential candidates who cannot bring themselves to say we are truly equal.”

In 2000, 62 percent of San Diego voters endorsed a statewide measure to restrict marriage to a union between a man and woman.

The City Council voted Tuesday in favor of joining other California cities to back a lawsuit attempting to overturn the gay marriage ban.