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Gay marriage draws support from U.S. mayors led by Villaraigosa

January 20, 2012 |  2:01 pm

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, left, hugs his daughter Lisa as her wife Meaghan Yaple, right, watches after a news conference in San Francisco in 2010. Sanders joined other mayors on Friday to support gay marriage. Credit: AP Photo / Jeff Chiu
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was among a group of 80 mayors in Washington on Friday who pledged their support for gay marriage and announced an initiative aimed at expanding marriage rights for same-sex couples.
 
The initiative, called Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, was announced during a press conference held at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' winter meeting. Villaraigosa will co-chair the group.
 
The mayors have pledged to push their cities to pass laws allowing same-sex marriage and urge Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. Critics say it unfairly denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples and allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.
 
INTERACTIVE: Gay marriage rights in the U.S.

“If we truly believe in family values, we should value all families,” Villaraigosa said. “Denying gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry weakens society by hurting our communities, neighbors and families.”
 
The group, among others, includes Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, who is openly gay. The group is an offshoot of Freedom to Marry, a national organization that pushes for same-sex marriage rights.

Also among the mayors in the group is Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego, who in 2007 relented on his previous opposition to same-sex marriage, saying that he could not accept that his daughter was less worthy of marriage because she is a lesbian.

“Allowing loving and committed couples to join in marriage has benefits not just for couples and their families — but also for society,” Sanders said. 
 
Villaraigosa has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage rights and stringent opponent of Proposition 8, the 2008 California measure that banned gay marriage. In 2008, he presided over the marriage of a same-sex couple, uniting a Hollywood producer and his five-year companion in a short ceremony at City Hall.

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-- Stephen Ceasar at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, left, hugs his daughter Lisa as her wife Meaghan Yaple, right, watches after a news conference in San Francisco in 2010. Sanders joined other mayors on Friday to support gay marriage. Credit: AP Photo / Jeff Chiu

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