Democratic platform draft includes marriage equality plank: sources

By Chris Johnson on July 30, 2012

Rep. Barney Frank confirmed Monday that a marriage equality plank will appear in the Democratic Party platform (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Democratic Party platform drafting committee approved on Sunday language endorsing same-sex marriage in addition to other pro-LGBT positions as part of the Democratic Party platform, according to two sources familiar with the drafting process.

Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who sits on the committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the 15-member panel unanimously backed the inclusion of a marriage equality plank after a national hearing over the weekend in Minneapolis, in which several witnesses testified in favor of such language.

“I was part of a unanimous decision to include it,” Frank said. “There was a unanimous decision in the drafting committee to include it in the platform, which I supported, but everybody was for it.”

Frank emphasized that support for marriage equality is a position that has been established for the Democratic Party, from the president, who endorsed marriage equality in May, to House Democratic lawmakers who voted to reject an amendment reaffirming the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this month.

A Democratic National Committee staffer, who is familiar with the process and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the language in the platform approved on Sunday not only backs marriage equality, but also rejects DOMA and has positive language with regard to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The exact wording of the language wasn’t immediately available.

The platform is still in a draft phase. Writers of the platform are now set to come up with close-to-final draft that will be presented before the full platform committee in Detroit from Aug. 10 to Aug. 12. That committee will discuss amendments before presenting the platform at the convention in Charlotte in September.

A number of witnesses were to testify in favor of a marriage equality plank in the platform: Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry; Allison Herwitt, legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign; Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, a lesbian New Hampshire guardsman with stage-four incurable breast cancer and a plaintiff in Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act;  Michael Macleod-Ball, the American Civil Liberties Union’s chief of staff for the Washington Legislative Office; and Aaron Zellhoefer, a gay delegate to the Democratic National Convention representing the National Stonewall Democrats.

Solomon, whose organization has been leading the effort to include a marriage equality plank in the platform, praised the committee in a statement for the adopting such language.

“We are grateful for the Platform Drafting Committee’s unanimous vote to include the freedom to marry in its draft of the Democratic Party platform,” Solomon said. “As I testified to the Committee on Friday, the Democratic Party has a noble history of fighting for the human and civil rights of all Americans. We are proud that the Committee is including language that will ensure the Party is leading the way forward in supporting marriage for loving and committed same-sex couples and their families.”

Zeke Stokes, an SLDN spokesperson, said following Morgan’s testimony that Frank spoke favorably about marriage equality and expressed the sentiment that such language would wind up in the platform.

“He spoke very passionately of his support for marriage equality following the Morgans’ testimony and left a strong impression that he believed it would ultimately be included,” Stokes said.

On Monday, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest deferred a question from National Public Radio’s Ari Shapiro on the adopted language to the DNC. The DNC didn’t respond to the Blade’s request to comment.

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