Members of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus reportedly were divided in an off-the-record conference call on Feb. 27 over whether to take an official position calling for a marriage equality plank in the Democratic Party platform, according to gay Democratic activist Paul Yandura.
Yandura and two other sources, who spoke on condition that they are not identified, said they have heard conflicting reports on which caucus members support or oppose taking a position on a marriage equality plank at this time.
Gay Democratic activist Rick Stafford of Minnesota, who serves as chair of the LGBT Caucus, said on Monday that all of the caucus’s phone conferences are confidential and he could not comment on specific issues discussed during the call.
“The caucus had a call that was the first of many talking about numerous LGBT issues that might be included in the platform as well as an expression of celebration to the many things the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have accomplished for the LGBT community,” Stafford told the Blade. “I guess that’s about as far as I want to go at this point.”
On Wednesday, Stafford said by email that he personally supports including a marriage equality plank in the party platform. He said the LGBT Caucus plans to “weigh in” on the issue when the Democratic Party Platform Committee begins deliberations on the platform in the coming months leading up to the Democratic Convention in September.
The reports that the DNC’s LGBT Caucus discussed a marriage equality plank for the party platform surfaced shortly after the national same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry launched a campaign calling on the party Platform Committee to adopt such a plank.
Calling its campaign, “Democrats: Say I do,” Freedom to Marry is calling on LGBT activists and their straight supporters to sign an online petition urging that the party platform “affirm the freedom to marry.”
In a survey conducted by the Washington Blade, the offices of 22 Democratic U.S. senators last week confirmed that the senators support including a marriage equality plank in the Democratic platform.
The LGBT blog Think Progress reported last week that at least 13 co-chairs of the Obama re-election campaign have publicly endorsed legalizing same-sex marriage.
A White House spokesperson has said repeatedly in recent months the president continues to ‘evolve’ on the marriage issue. At the time he ran for president in 2008, Obama said he supported civil unions over marriage for same-sex couples.
Gay Democrat Earl Fowlkes, the only DNC LGBT Caucus member from D.C., told the Blade on March 3 that he believes it’s premature for the caucus to take an official position on the party platform.
“Not a single member of the platform committee has even been picked,” Fowlkes said.
Maryland House of Delegates member Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) is the only DNC LGBT Caucus member from Maryland. Mizeur did not respond to a Blade inquiry seeking her position on whether the caucus should adopt a marriage equality plank. Mizeur was among the lead sponsors and advocates for the same-sex marriage bill that the Maryland General Assembly approved last month.
LGBT Caucus member Randi Weingarten of New York, an out lesbian who serves as president of the American Federation of Teachers, said she favors adding a marriage equality plank to the party platform. Noting that she is a longtime supporter of marriage equality, she said she helped in the effort to lobby the New York Legislature to pass a same-sex marriage bill last year.
Asked to comment on the LGBT Caucus’s reported discussion on a marriage equality plank, Weingarten said, “The DNC call was an off the record call and I have to honor that.”
LGBT Caucus member Andrew Tobias of New York, who serves as the DNC’s national treasurer, told the Blade in an email that he was unable to participate in the caucus’s Feb. 27 conference call.
“But I believe all of us support marriage equality,” he said. “The exact language of the platform remains to be worked out, but I hope and expect it will be language the community will be proud to support.”
Several additional members of the LGBT Caucus contacted by the Blade via email, in addition to Mizeur of Maryland, didn’t respond by press time this week to a request that they disclose their position on including a marriage equality plank in the platform.
“We should ask each member to publicly state whether they are for or against inclusion of marraige equality in the Democratic Party platform since they are ‘representatives’ of the community and we deserve to know,” Yandura said.
In his statement, Stafford said the LGBT Caucus and the party as a whole would be considering inclusion of a wide range of LGBT issues in the platform.
“The American people, including LGBT Americans, have made it clear that there are many important issues facing our nation today,” Stafford said. “All of these issues, including those raised by the ‘I Do’ campaign, deserve to be considered in the party platform – as do other important issues of equality such as inclusive employment non-discrimination and safe schools.”