A committee of more than 100 Democrats unanimously approved on Saturday a version of their party’s platform that includes a plank endorsing marriage equality as well as other pro-LGBT language.
The full platform committee, which consists of around 120 Democrats, gave the OK to the manifesto following a meeting in Detroit, Mich., that was chaired by retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the first woman to reach the rank of three-star general, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. During the several hour long meeting, members offered views on principles to advocate for within the party and proposed amendments to the platform.
Language on marriage equality — which is being included in the Democratic Party platform for the first time — was accepted without amendment and without significant discussion.
Among the committee members who delivered remarks was Scott Dibble, a gay state senator from Minnesota, who said he’s “extremely pleased” with the marriage equality plank, saying the language “should be taken as an affirmation on something that we all value and cherish, and that is what marriage means and that marriage really matters.”
“This has certainly been a journey for many people in this country,” Dibble said. “It’s been a journey for our president, and I’m very proud of our president [for] having stood and said all families matter. And Mr. Chair and Madam Chair and members, young people are looking for a political home right now and that has become one of the defining moral questions of our time and our moment.”
Speaking with the Washington Blade by phone after the vote, Dibble said he wasn’t surprised the full platform committee accepted the marriage equality without any challenges.
“I wasn’t surprised, but I was pretty happy that there was no discussion, no controversy,” Dibble said. “I wasn’t sure whether or not I was expected any, but it was great. There seemed to be a lot of good feeling and felt a lot of really positive energy around on the the idea of including the plank.”
The Washington Blade first reported on July 30 that the Democratic Party platform drafting committee had agreed to adopt a marriage equality plank in the platform as well as language rejecting the Defense of Marriage Act and affirming the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The platform hasn’t officially been made public, nor has any language related to LGBT issues. However, language first reported by Buzzfeed and later confirmed by the Blade has shown it affirms marriage equality, rejects DOMA while respecting religious liberties.
“We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law,” the language states. “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.”
The language continues, “We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.”
Other pro-LGBT language related to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and bullying was also left intact by the committee. Some advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, were hoping for an explicit endorsement of anti-bullying bills like the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe School Improvement Act, but that language isn’t in the platform.
“We know that putting America back to work is job one, and we are committed to ensuring Americans do not face employment discrimination,” the languages states. “We support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because people should not be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The language continues, “President Obama and the Democratic Party are committed to ensuring all Americans are treated fairly. This administration hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and we must continue our work to prevent vicious bullying of young people and support LGBT youth. The President’s record, from ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in full cooperation with our military leadership, to passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to ensuring same-sex couples can visit each other in the hospital, reflects Democrats’ belief that all Americans deserve the same chance to pursue happiness, earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and take care of the ones they love.”
But additional LGBT language was placed into the platform during the hearing. The immigration reform language was amended to include the following: “the administration has said that the word ‘family’ in immigration includes LGBT relationships in order to protect binational families threatened with deportation.” The amendment was offered by Tobias Wolff, a gay University of Pennsylvania law professor and member of the platform committee.
The next step in the process is sending the platform to delegates at the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Charlotte, N.C., during the week of September 3. Delegates at the convention will vote on giving the platform final approval.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, whose organization has been leading the fight for the marriage equality plank in the platform, praised committee for giving its approval for an inclusive document.
“Today’s vote to include language supporting the freedom to marry in the Democratic Party ‘s National Platform is a victory for fairness and families, and a historic moment long in the making,” Wolfson said. “Support for the freedom to marry puts the party on the right side of history, and in the solid mainstream of the majority of the American people. Freedom to Marry applauds the Democratic Party for its fidelity to bedrock American values of the pursuit of happiness, liberty, and justice for all, and for its vision of an America that respects all families and honors commitment and love.”
Darlene Nipper, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, also had good words to say about the LGBT language in the platform.
“Support for marriage equality and ENDA, as well as against DOMA, in the draft platform is good politics and makes good sense,” Nipper said. “It is fully in step with how the entire country is moving on marriage, and the public has overwhelmingly supported employment protections for LGBT people for many years.”
NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that LGBT language was added to the immigration section of the platform and that it was offered by Tobias Wolff.