Democratic Party To Formally Back Marriage Equality

After an internal debate, Democrats plan to formalize their position in the party platform. A move Obama’s shift made possible. posted on

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, left, shakes hands with President Barack Obama on May 14, 2012 — days after Obama announced that he personally supports the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Richard Drew / AP

The Democratic Party took action this weekend to include marriage equality as a formal part of the party’s platform — a statement of governing principles that, while not binding, is a strong sign of where the leadership of the party stands on issues great and small.

Multiple Democratic sources confirmed to BuzzFeed today that the party’s Platform Drafting Committee voted unanimously this weekend to include marriage equality in the platform — a first for the party, which took no position on marriage equality in the 2008 platform.

Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank told The Washington Blade of the news this morning. Several other drafting committee members declined to comment at this point in the process.

As BuzzFeed reported exclusively this weekend, Frank had made his first on-the-record comments in support of the inclusion of such a plank following testimony by supporters of marriage equality to the committee.

Although the Platform Committee, another body than the Drafting Committee, will have to approve the language when it meets August 10-12 in Detroit and the convention delegates will have to adopt the platform in Charlotte, this weekend’s action was the key step in making a change that advocates have been pressing for throughout the year.

Freedom to Marry, an advocacy organization headed by longtime marriage equality backer Evan Wolfson, launched a campaign in February of this year urging Democrats to “Say I Do” to including marriage equality in the platform.

Marc Solomon, the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said today he was “grateful for the Platform Drafting Committee’s unanimous vote to include the freedom to marry in its draft of the Democratic Party platform.”

He added: “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.”

In 2008, the Democrats took no position on marriage equality, stating only that the party “oppose[d] the Defense of Marriage Act” and that it “supported … equal responsibilities, benefits and protections.”

Since that time, however, the landscape — from the number of states that allow same-sex couples to marry to public opinion polls to President Obama’s own personal position on the issue — has changed, with Obama saying in May, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

The Platform Drafting Committee was chaired by former Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio and included as members former U.S. Representative Tony Coelho, Tino Cuellar, U.S. Representative Barney Frank, Donna Harris-Aikens, Colin Kahl, Nancy Keenan, Heather Kendall Miller, Thea Lee, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, Susan Ness, Mayor Michael Nutter, Carlos Odio, former U.S. Representative Robert Wexler and Christen Young. Serving as ex-officio members are Governor Deval Patrick, DNC Secretary Alice Germond, and Tom Wheeler.

The Platform Committee itself is co-chaired by Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker and Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy (Ret.). Booker has been an outspoken advocate for marriage equality.

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