Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Crashing the Democrats' Party

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Protesters take part in a demonstration supporting same-sex marriages outside Sheraton Hotel where U.S. President Obama was attending a function in New York.
President Barack Obama may be against same-sex marriage, but a group is trying to get the Democratic Party to officially support the issue in its platform at the 2012 national convention.

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act banning federal recognition of legally married same-sex couples may soon meet its demise in court, as the Obama administration had hanged the law out to dry.

After New York in 2011 became one of the biggest states to allow same-sex marriages, others have done the same or are currently trying. Washington's Gov. Christine Gregoire Feb. 13 signed a marriage equality law; Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a fellow Democrat, will get to do the same this week.

As Democrats continue to etablish same-sex marriage in states across the U.S., one group advocating for nationwide marriage equality says it is time to make it official: put same-sex marriage on the party platform.

The Democratic Party at its best is a leader in standing against all forms of discrimination. And support for the freedom of gay couples to marry is a natural next step, said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, a New York-based advocacy group.

This February, Freedom to Marry launched a drive to get major Democrats on board with adding a plank to the party platform at September's convention that affirms its support of the full inclusion of all families with in the life of our nation, with equal respect, responsibility, and protection under the law, including the freedom to marry.

The proposed plank also calls for the end of DOMA and a platform opposing discriminatrory consitutitonal amendments and other attempts to deny the freedom to marry to loving and committed same-sex couples.

'Mainstream Democratic Position'

So far, several prominent Democrats support the effort; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire backed the plank Tuesday, joining House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Shaheen and Feingold also serve as national co-chairs of President Barack Obama's reelection campaign.

The recent support from top Democrats, Solomon said in an interview, shows most importantly that this is a mainstream Democratic position.

While top Republican legal minds and party elders have eventually come out in favor of marriage equality, the Democratic Party in the late 20th century has counted gays among its base of support. The rank-and-file overwhelmingly approve of same-sex marriage, an issue that is now a something of a given among prominent Democratic elected officials in blue states.

Still, the party today has evolved from the one in the 1990s that instituted many anti-gay policies being repealed.

President Bill Clinton's desire to see the ban on gays in the military lifted brought Don't Ask, Don't Tell; a 1993 Hawaii court decision that said same-sex couples could get marriage licenses led to Clinton signing DOMA.

Though Obama has ended DADT and wants benefits for gay and lesbian couples, the president, as head of the Democratic Party, still publicly says he is personally opposed to same-sex marriage. This is a hurdle for Solomon and Freedom to Marry to clear.

I think it'd be easier to accomplish if the president was for freedom to marry, Solomon said of efforts to change the party platform. He's been talking about his evolution on the matter but I think this evolution has gone on for too long. He needs to make a decision.

Next Generation

Even if Obama is still evolving, the next generation of Democratic leaders preparing for the national stage -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Maryland's O'Malley, Washington's Gregiore and Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire -- are full-throated supporters of same-sex marriage, with the achievements to prove it.

Many of these governors have high approval ratings, in part because of their achievements on this issue.

Solomon said gay marriage has been a boon to them and has helped give Democrats something to rally around at a time when there is strong sentiment that both parties are the same.

It's helped the brand of the party when, I think, people have this sense that political parties arent taking real stances and are too wishy washy, he said.

I think it'll be a strong statement to younger voters who feel strongly about the issue, he added.

As Freedom to Marry continues to reach out to bold-faced names, Solomon says there will be a focus on those down the Democratic food chain who will fill the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.'s Time Warner Cable Arena.

The Democratic Party is a democratic institution and there is going to be a platform committee that's going to work together to devise a platform, Solomon said. We're going to participate every step of the way.

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