February 13, 2012
By Jacob Combs
As today’s marriage equality developments demonstrate, the marriage movement is wise to focus its attention on state legislatures, where real change can be accomplished through persistence and education. One of the most important facets of the marriage movement is state-by-state gains: the more Americans who live in communities where gay and lesbian couples can marry, the more that learn what marriage really means to these couples.
Nevertheless, American government is a federalist system, and nationwide, federal activism is just as important as state activism. Today, Freedom to Marry launched a petition campaign urging the Democratic Party to adopt full support of marriage equality in its 2012 platform, which will be voted on at the Democratic National Convention taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina in September. Here is Freedom to Marry’s proposed platform language:
The Democratic Party supports the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, with equal respect, responsibility, and protection under the law, including the freedom to marry. Government has no business putting barriers in the path of people seeking to care for their family members, particularly in challenging economic times. We support the Respect for Marriage Act and the overturning of the federal so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” and oppose discriminatory constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny the freedom to marry to loving and committed same-sex couples.
Freedom to Marry’s position is important because it is unequivocally time for the Democratic Party to support full marriage rights for all. Polls throughout 2011 have demonstrated that a majority of Americans supports marriage equality. Even more strikingly, a CNN poll found that among Democrats, a full 64 percent are in support of marriage equality, along with 55 percent of independents. When almost two-thirds of a party’s voters support an issue, it’s time for that party to include the issue in its platform.
Even more significantly, Freedom to Marry’s suggestion wouldn’t just be the right thing for Democrats to do, it’s the smart thing to do politically as well. As we’ve written about before here on P8TT, there is no reason that marriage equality should be seen as a partisan issue, and Republicans like Ted Olson (and the Republican senators who voted for marriage equality today in New Jersey) deserve commendation for their support. Nevertheless, it is to the benefit of Democrats to be seen as the party that supports an issue that so many Americans (and particularly young Americans) are in favor of.
As we reported here at P8TT, Australia’s Labour Party amended its platform in early December to include full marriage equality. Just yesterday, two new marriage bills were introduced in the Australian legislature, one by a Labour politician and another by a member of the Greens party. This isn’t to say that gay and lesbian couples will be able to marry in Australia any time soon: none of the bills has the support yet to pass. But with a new poll showing 62 percent support for marriage equality in the country (a number that jumps to an incredible 81 percent among voters aged 18-24), the bills mark a promising development. Labour, the ruling party, opposed marriage equality until just a few months ago; now, one of their members of parliament has introduced legislation to make equality a reality. Could the same thing happen in the U.S.? First, one of our political must amend its platform. For the Democrats, it looks like that time might finally have come.