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Democratic platform committee hears marriage equality testimony

Democratic platform committee hears marriage equality testimony

The fight to include a marriage equality plank in the 2012 Democratic Party platform is heating up as one LGBT advocate drew on support from Democratic governors and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in testimony urging platform committee members to adopt such language.

Members of the platform drafting committee are holding a national hearing this weekend in Minneapolis, Minn., and hearing testimony from individuals seeking certain language in the platform. Among the witnesses Friday afternoon was Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, whose organization is taking the lead in pushing for an endorsement of same-sex marriage in the platform as part of its “Democrats: Say I Do” campaign.

Slated to speak on Saturday also in support of the language was Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, a lesbian New Hampshire guardsmen who has been diagnosed with stage-four incurable breast cancer, as well as Michael Macleod-Ball, the American Civil Liberties Union’s chief of staff in the Washington Legislative Office, who’ll speak about marriage and other LGBT and HIV/AIDS related issues.

In his prepared remarks, Solomon drew on the “evolution” that Obama completed on his way to endorsing same-sex marriage, but also made the case the Democratic Party as a whole has largely been responsible for advancing same-sex marriage, including Democratic governors like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

“The Democratic Party has a noble history of fighting for the human and civil rights of all Americans,” Solomon said. “Living up to that legacy, Democratic lawmakers have provided the vast majority of the support for the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples in states and in Congress, even as ending exclusion from marriage is now becoming a bipartisan cause.”

Speaking with the Washington Blade by phone after his testimony, Solomon said the inclusion of a marriage-equality plank is important to keep up “momentum” in the advancement of same-sex marriage.

“At first the effort itself made a lot of news because we were asking the party to go someplace where the president wasn’t yet,” Solomon said. “I think every step towards our end game of full marriage equality nationwide is important, especially with the U.S. Supreme Court likely to take up some major cases next session, so we want to keep building momentum in every single way.”

While committee members asked questions of others who presented testimony, Solomon said none were asked of him. At the same time, Solomon said no committee members expressed support for a marriage equality plank during the time he testified, but also didn’t express support for any other idea presented to them.

A handful of the 15 members of the platform drafting committee have already pledged to advocate for a marriage equality plank. In response to inquiries from the Washington Blade, three voting members — Carlos Odio, a Latino Democratic activist, Donna Harris-Aikens, the National Education Association’s director of policy and practice, and NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan — went on the record saying they’d unequivocally back such language, as did two non-voting members — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Democratic National Committee Secretary Alice Germond.

But that explicit support isn’t held everyone, including a high-profile openly gay member of the panel who recently married his longtime same-sex partner. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who previously expressed lukewarm support for the idea of a marriage equality plank and he preferred language opposed to the Defense of Marriage Act, had at best an ambivalent take on marriage in the platform when asked about it by the New York Post.

“There may be a decision not to get into it a whole lot,” Frank was quoted as saying. “This is a strategic judgment.”

Solomon said Frank wasn’t present during the time he presented his testimony before the panel, although most of the committee was there, including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).

Continue reading at the Washington Blade

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