Leading Dems lobby for same-sex marriage in the party platform

Jonathan Mintz, left, New York City’s consumer affairs commissioner,
embraces John Feinblatt, a chief adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg,
and their daughters at their wedding

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a growing number of Democratic leaders are hoping this year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte will go down in history as the first to include a plank in the party platform that fully supports same-sex marriage.

Freedom to Marry, a 9-year-old gay-rights group, launched its “Democrats: Say I Do” campaign last month. About 30,000 people have signed its online petition to put marriage equality in the 2012 Democratic platform.

In addition to Pelosi, of California, the group’s push has been endorsed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, one of eight states to legalize same-sex marriage, and former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin…

President Barack Obama, who is banking on winning North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes and the enthusiastic support of gays and lesbians, appears to be straddling the fence on same-sex marriage. In the 2008 campaign, he favored civil unions but opposed gay marriage. Since then, he’s said only that his position is “evolving…”

Obama and his administration have been busy reaching out to gay and lesbian voters – Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius keynoted last Saturday’s Human Rights Campaign gala in Charlotte.

And among young people, another key voter group Obama is courting, about 70 percent favor the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Emily Tisch Sussman, executive director of the Young Democrats of America, has also endorsed the idea of putting a marriage equality plank in the party’s platform.

But other parts of Obama’s coalition are not on board. Many African-Americans, for example. Yes, the strength of churches that stopped fighting for civil rights once their congregations got halfway there.

In the coming months, as the Democratic Party gears up for its long and winding platform-drafting process, the president is likely to get conflicting advice on whether this year’s party platform should endorse full marriage equality for the first time.

“Our party has a long tradition of leading the charge on important questions of justice,” Shaheen said recently. “Now is the time for the Democratic Party to stand up for the rights of same-sex couples and their families.”

But there are also voices cautioning Obama to not let divisive social issues distract from what they say should be the Charlotte convention’s main focus: Jobs and the economy…

There’s been a huge shift nationwide in the last four years,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign manager for Freedom to Marry, based in New York. “In multiple polls, a majority (of Americans) support the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. Among Democrats, we have a super-majority. So it’s time – and it’s the right thing for the Democrats to do.”

I turned away from activism in either wing of the TweedleDeeDum political party when it became clear that leadership, principles, history, constitutional guidance and standards weren’t as important to American politicians – as getting re-elected. I was a founding member of the Young Republicans in the New England town I lived in, then. The only thing that’s changed since – a couple of times a few politicians with principles led the Democrats into aiding passage of the Civil Rights Bill and that included a couple of Republicans who wouldn’t make it to endorsement for dog catcher in that sect, today. Including Mitt Romney’s daddy, George.

That’s it for the fifty years that have passed by. Every political act that made positive changes in the United States – from equal pay for women to the end of the VietNam War, from gay rights to healthcare essentials for all – got their start and impetus from outside the Democrats and Republicans. The clowns in office will take all the credit once progressive legislation is passed, executive orders are written; but, the fact remains they were pushed through by the will of the people with little or no leadership from politicians or pundits.

I don’t expect that to change in the next nine months.

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