Democrats over the weekend enhanced a platform already hailed as the “most LGBTQ-inclusive in history” with the addition of language making clear the party believes LGBT human rights should be part of U.S. foreign policy.
During a meeting in Orlando, Fla., the Democratic platform committee approved the amendment late Saturday by an unanimous vote as committee co-chair and former Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy presided.
The new plank in favor of international LGBT human rights draws on 2011 a speech presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made as secretary of state. At the time, Clinton declared, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” a now often expressed sentiment from the Obama administration.
Mara Keisling, a transgender rights activist and member of the platform committee, posted a screenshot of the amendment on Twitter and told the Washington Blade she’s “very happy” with the plank.
— Mara Keisling (@MaraKeisling) July 9, 2016
Adopted unanimously by the committee, the amendment was proposed by Roberta Achtenberg, a lesbian Clinton supporter who when speaking on behalf of the plank before the committee invoked the candidate’s statement that LGBT rights are human rights.
“That means our foreign policy should promote human rights of LGBT people around the world,” Achtenberg said. “It means that we should work to advance the ability of all people to live with dignity, security and respect regardless of who they are, who they love or where they live.”
During the administration of former President Bill Clinton, Achtenberg was assistant secretary at the Department of Housing & Urban Development. She was the first openly gay person who was appointed and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to a position in the U.S. government.
The draft platform already contained language declaring the Democratic Party’s support for making LGBT human rights part of U.S. foreign policy, but that was included in the section dedicated to LGBT human rights and not as extensive as the language proposed by Achtenberg.
As the amendment was being considered, another member of the committee, David Braun, an anti-fracking activist and Bernie Sanders supporter, objected to the omission of “Q” from the LGBT acronym in the proposed plank and the entire platform. Many consider the “Q” as representative of queer-inclusion in the LGBT movement.
“LGBTQ is actually how we identify ourselves,” Braun said. “This whole document is lacking the ‘Q’ for queer.”
Malloy said he’d take up the proposal as an issue in the technical review process, saying he doesn’t think anyone would “use one of their remaining amendments” to make the change.
Dana Vickers Shelley, a Democratic National Committee spokesperson, said committee co-chairs have the prerogative to accept changes to the draft without putting them up to a vote, which is the technical review process to which Malloy referred.
The draft platform is still in the process of being updated, Shelley said, so whether “Q” will be included as part of the LGBT acronym remains to be seen.
“The next version of the platform draft will include all approved amendments and technical changes, as well as minor edits/typos,” Shelley said. “That updated platform draft is the document distributed to convention delegates for ratification.”
The initial draft of the 2016 Democratic platform, unveiled earlier this month, contains for the first-time ever support for comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation, but doesn’t explicitly mention the Equality Act as that litigation, nor does it explicitly say the words “gay,” “lesbian” and “bisexual.” It wasn’t immediately clear if that enumeration was made part of the platform as a result of the platform committee’s work over the weekend.
Also during the meeting, the committee rejected an amendment supported by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that would have explicitly stated the party opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement among 12 nations in the Pacific Rim, including the United States. As a right now, the draft platform says “there are a diversity of views in the party” on the agreement.
Many LGBT groups have expressed opposition to the deal, which is opposed by the labor movement, on the basis it would open up to U.S. trade to countries that criminalize homosexuality like Malaysia and Brunei. Critics say the deal would complicate distribution of HIV/AIDS medications in the region.
Jerame Davis, director of the LGBT labor group Pride at Work, said the language as it stands is sufficient for opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“A direct rejection of the TPP in the platform would’ve been great, but the broader language included in the Democratic Party platform covers all trade deals, which is more important than any single agreement,” Davis said. “The trade plank explicitly rejects any trade deal that includes the ability for corporations to sue sovereign nations if their profits are impacted by that country’s laws. Known as Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), this is one of the defining features of TPP and is baked into the agreement. The TPP utterly fails the standards this trade plank defines.”
Davis added the new plank making clear the Democratic Party supports international LGBT human rights undermines the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The language, he said, directly contradicts the agreement because it would open up trade to Malaysia and Brunei.
“We believe it will be hard for any member of that party to stand behind TPP as it is currently written once this platform is formally adopted in Philadelphia in less than two weeks,” Davis concluded.
Late Saturday evening, the committee approved the entire draft platform by voice vote. The next step in the process is ratification by delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia during the final week of July.