July 19, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Pressure builds on Dems to include marriage in party platform
Barack Obama, gay news, Washington Blade

Pressure is building on the DNC to include a marriage plank in the platform.

The Obama campaign released a statement Thursday reiterating the president’s support for marriage equality, but falling just short of endorsing a call for its inclusion in the official party platform.

“The President’s personal views on marriage equality are known. The President and the Party are committed to crafting a platform that reflects the President’s positions and the values of the Party,” an Obama campaign spokesperson said Thursday in an email to the Washington Blade.

Rep. Adam Schiff (left) at a Pride Parade with the West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang and his partner (photo courtesy Schiff’s office)

In a follow-up email, the campaign spokesperson clarified that it’s not fair to characterize the remarks as an endorsement of including a same-sex marriage plank in the Democratic Party platform.

In an interview with ABC News in May, President Obama announced that he now supports same-sex marriage, saying he “just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” But he hasn’t publicly endorsed the idea of including marriage equality in the platform despite support from many Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Senate candidates Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren, four former Democratic National Committee chairs and 22 U.S. senators.

The 15 platform committee members were named last week and are set to hold a national hearing on the platform on the weekend of July 27 in Minneapolis, Minn. On Wednesday, the Washington Blade published statements from three voting members and two non-voting members of committee who said they’ll advocate for such language in the platform.

Earlier on Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced he’s leading a group of 27 House Democrats, including a majority of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation, seeking an endorsement of same-sex marriage in the platform.

In a Washington Blade interview prior to the statement from the campaign, Schiff said he wanted to see the Obama campaign join the call for such language and praised the president for his leadership on marriage equality.

“I think it certainly would be very helpful for the presidential campaign to be supportive and to acknowledge that this is something that ought to be part and parcel of what the Democratic Party stands for, but I think all of this really comes from the president’s leadership,” Schiff said. “It wouldn’t be happening without the president’s leadership, and I certainly haven’t sensed any resistance whatsoever – from the White House or elsewhere — to our efforts.”

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom of Marry, is among those calling for a marriage equality plank in the platform, but said he thinks Obama “made his position clear” on the issue when he endorsed same-sex marriage in the ABC News interview.

“The president has made his position clear — he, like a majority of Americans, a substantial majority of independents, and an overwhelming majority of Democrats — supports the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. “Freedom to Marry launched the call for a freedom to marry plank in the platform, continues to work hard to get it done, and is confident that we will succeed and the Democratic Party will be on record and on the right side of history.”

Schiff, one of the signers of the House Democrats’ friend-of-the-court briefs against the Defense of Marriage Act, said having the an endorsement of same-sex marriage in the platform is important because the Democratic Party has always “had a very strong commitment to equality and to the rights of all Americans.”

“This is consistent with the best traditions of the Democratic Party,” Schiff said. “I think it’s a pivotal time in the fight for marriage equality and the Democratic Party can play a leadership role, and here, the California Democratic delegation can play a leadership role in helping to marshal support from our colleagues and hopefully push the platform committee over the top.”

Schiff added that a marriage equality plank would be another step in “irresistible momentum” toward the legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the country and demonstrate the distinction between the Democratic and Republican parties on the issue.

Although he said he hasn’t spoken with platform committee members, Schiff said he’s “increasingly confident” that the marriage equality plank would end up in the platform based on conversations he’s had with Democratic Party officials, including Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“I had a great meeting with Debbie Wasserman Schultz yesterday and she expressed her complete support as well as optimism and confidence that we can make this happen,” Schiff said.

That would be in line with what Wasserman Schultz told the Philadelphia Gay News in an interview published Thursday. The DNC chair has been telling media outlets she supports the language and expects to see it included in the platform.

“I expect marriage equality to be a plank in the national party platform,” Wasserman Schultz was quoted as saying. “President Obama has declared his support for it … Now, our platform committee process is a people-powered process. We have a platform committee and the platform is developed by our Democratic activists and the platform committee members, so they’ll go through a process. I hope that marriage equality, and expect that marriage equality, will be part of our platform.”

Joining Schiff in signing onto the letter are Reps. Lois Capps, Zoe Lofgren, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Thompson, Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, Susan Davis, Janice Hahn, Judy Chu, Grace Napolitano, Howard Berman, George Miller, Linda Sanchez, Loretta Sanchez, Xavier Becerra, Henry Waxman, Sam Farr,  Pete Stark, Mike Honda, Doris Matsui, Jerry McNerney, Brad Sherman, Karen Bass, Maxine Waters and Joe Baca. Pelosi as well as Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have previously expressed support for the language.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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