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‘Commitment Campaign’ aims to reshape the debate on gay marriage

Monday, November 7, 2011
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A bipartisan group backing legalization of same-sex marriage launched a new campaign on Monday, aimed at reshaping the debate from the topic of marriage “equality” to the value of “commitment.”

The “Commitment Campaign” — spearheaded by the centrist think tank Third Way — is intended to promote the idea that same-sex couples want to marry “so that they can make a lifetime commitment,” and deepen support for same-sex marriage among moderates and Independents.

Advocates have long made the case that legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians is a matter of equality, but those who frame the issue that way might be reinforcing a belief among many Americans in the middle on the issue that gays and lesbians want to marry for different reasons than straight couples, according to polling by Third Way and Grove Insight.

When asked why “couples like you” might want to marry, 58% said to “publicly acknowledge their love and commitment to each other.” When asked why gays and lesbians may want to marry, the respondents split between “love and commitment” and “rights and benefits.”

The Commitment Campaign said it plans to “work with policymakers and advocates to persuade the middle that gay couples want to marry so that they can make a lifetime commitment.”

Third Way President Jon Cowan remarked, “The Commitment Campaign will be a signature project of Third Way over the coming years. We feel strongly that allowing all committed couples to make a promise of fidelity to each other for life is something that Americans should embrace, and we hope to play a significant role in moving our country in that direction.”

The campaign indicated that recent passage of same-sex marriage in New York state potentially signifies a tipping point on the issue.

Several states — including Maryland, Minnesota and North Carolina — are likely to consider legislation or ballot initiatives on gay marriage in 2012.

The campaign already has the support of several high profile Democrats and Republicans, including Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I), former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman (R) and Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

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