The chair of the Democratic National Committee said Tuesday she would “certainly consider” spending money to combat anti-gay constitutional amendments next year in Minnesota and North Carolina.
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz made the remarks about spending DNC funds to defeat marriage amendments in response to a question from the Washington Blade. She took questions from reporters following an Immigration Equality event she attended in D.C.
Wasserman Schultz, also U.S. House member representing a district in Florida, said state party groups are now focusing on defeating amendments banning same-sex marriage and the national Democratic Party would consider sending resources if asked to do so.
“I know that the party in each of those states will be combatting them,” Wasserman Schultz said. “And if they ask for our assistance, like any other state party request, we’ll certainly consider it.”
Wasserman Schultz added the Democratic Party has a lot to accomplish in the 2012 election and said the best way to defeat anti-gay initiatives at the polls will be “by turning out our Democratic voters who generally overwhelmingly oppose initiatives like that.”
Both Minnesota and North Carolina will vote on amending their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage in 2012. The North Carolina amendment will come before voters in May and the Minnesota measure will come before voters in November.
Activists have criticized the DNC for its lack of attention to anti-gay state measures in the past. In 2006, gay Democratic activist Paul Yandura stirred up controversy by distributing an open letter criticizing the party for not doing enough to defeat anti-gay measures in the states.
In 2009, John Aravosis, the gay editor of AMERICAblog, took aim at the DNC for asking Maine Democrats to assist with the New Jersey governor’s race while saying nothing about the marriage initiative on the ballot in the state at the time.
Whether Democrats will come to the polls to vote on the North Carolina amendment remains in question because it will be the only ballot question on which they can vote.
The issue will come before state voters in May at the same time as the Republican presidential primary, which is a modified closed primary. All North Carolinians can vote on the marriage amendment, but only registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters can vote in the primary.
In response to another question from the Blade, Wasserman Schultz wouldn’t venture to say whether the Democratic Party platform in 2012 would endorse same-sex marriage.
“I really don’t know,” Wasserman Schultz said. “We don’t dictate what’s included in our platform. The members of our platform committee will come up with that.”
Asked whether there would be any pro-LGBT changes in the platform, Wasserman Schultz said she couldn’t give specifics because the platform committee will make that decision, but she added, “I’m very confident and I believe strongly that we should have as inclusive as possible LGBT agenda as part of our platform.”
A transcript of the exchange between reporters and Wasserman Schultz follows:
Q: I’d like to ask you some questions about the Democratic Party platform for 2012. What kind of pro-LGBT changes are we going to see in the platform in 2012 compared to what we had in 2008?
Debbie Wasserman Schultz: It’s a little bit early to tell. I feel confident that we will have an LGBT platform that will be part of our overall platform. We have a platform committee that gets put together to develop what will be in it for the convention. I can’t tell you specifically what’s likely to be in it because the members of the DNC and the participants who serve on the platform committee make that decision but I’m very confident and I believe strongly that we should have as inclusive as possible LGBT agenda as part of our platform.
Q: Do you think we’ll see an endorsement of same-sex marriage as part of that platform?
Wasserman Schultz: Like I said, I really don’t know. We don’t dictate what’s included in our platform. The members of our platform committee will come up with that.
Q: As a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, are you at all confident that it’s going to pass before the election next year?
Wasserman Schultz: Well, we have Republicans who are opposed to comprehensive immigration reform, and even more opposed to including same-sex bi-national couples in any kind of immigration reform, so, no. With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives I’m not confident, sadly, that it will become law before the end of this Congress.
Q: U.S. House John Boehner tripled the cost cap for the defense fund for the Defense of Marriage Act any reaction to that?
Wasserman Schultz: It’s just colossally insensitive, but it’s also outrageous that the person who’s second in line to the president would actually spend time and resource defending a blatantly unconstitutional law. It’s morally wrong and it’s legally wrong, and it’s unconscionable because the speaker, like myself and all the other 435 members of the House swear to uphold the constitution. It’s just unfathomable to me that he would pursue that path.
Q: Congresswoman Lofgren sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking U.S. Customs & Immigration Services to stop putting —
Wasserman Schultz: To put the [green card] applications [for bi-national same-sex couples] in abeyance —
Q: Is there a reason who didn’t sign the letter?
Wassserman Schultz: I’m not even sure I was asked to sign on to the letter.
Q: Is it something that you would have signed or would support?
Wasserman Schultz: I support them being put in abeyance, but I don’t know that I was asked to go on the letter. Given that I’m the chair of the DNC, it’s a little odd for me to be asking the administration to do specific things. So, I personally support it, but because I’m also the political voice of the president, asking the president to do things publicly can get a little awkward.
Q: Two battles that the LGBT community are concerned about in 2012 are going to be anti-gay marriage amendments in Minnesota and North Carolina. Do you think we’ll see DNC resources going to combat those amendments in those states?
Wasserman Schultz: I know that the party in each of those states will be combatting them. And if they ask for our assistance, like any other state party request, we’ll certainly consider it. We have a lot to accomplish in the next election. The best way we can benefit those causes in defeating amendments like that is by turning out our Democratic voters who generally overwhelmingly oppose initiatives like that. So, we spend resources in a state getting our voters to the polls and maximizing that opportunity will help do that.
Q: Do you have any comment on Herman Cain’s assertion on “The View” this morning that homosexuality is a choice?
Wasserman Schultz: Did he do that?
Q: He said that on The View this morning.
Wasserman Schultz: Yes, I totally disagree with Herman Cain. Homosexuality is not a choice. It is something that occurs through birth. It’s hereditary, and it’s shockingly out of touch and insensitive for him to suggest outdated, ancient — and sends a terrible message to gay kids, to gay Americans that somehow they should be treated differently and that we don’t recognize that sexuality is simply a matter of the way you were born.