Activists push for Democratic plank on marriage

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U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, supports adding a plank supporting marriage equality to the Democratic Party platform. – Photo: Courtesy

Gay rights advocates want the Democratic Party to include a marriage equality plank in the platform that will be adopted at the national convention in September.

The idea has the support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Feingold and Shaheen are co-chairs of the president's re-election campaign.

Proposed platform language was circulated by the Freedom to Marry campaign on Feb. 13. Earlier in the month Freedom to Marry announced its partnership with a coalition of U.S. mayors, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, supporting marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

Freedom to Marry's proposed plank reads, "We support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, with equal respect, responsibilities, and protections 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."

President Barack Obama, who will be nominated to run for a second term at the convention in North Carolina, has said his view on marriage is "evolving."

But the president does support the repeal of DOMA and has ordered the Justice Department not to defend the law in court. He also supports the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. He has opposed proposals to amend the federal Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and denounced "divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples."

Freedom to Marry has circulated a petition that's drawn more than 10,000 signatures for the marriage equality plank.

"A strong majority of Democrats and Independents support the freedom to marry, and standing up for all families is not just the right thing to do morally, it's also right to do politically," said Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson.

Four years ago, the party platform contained language opposing DOMA and supporting "equal responsibilities, benefits and protections."

The 2004 platform opposed a Republican-pushed anti-gay marriage amendment and stated that marriage matters should be left to the states.

The Republican Party's platforms have consistently endorsed DOMA and a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

The 2008 platform stated, "Because our children's future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it. In the absence of a national amendment, we support the right of the people of the various states to affirm traditional marriage through state initiatives."

Of the four GOP candidates for president, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich support DOMA and an anti-gay marriage amendment. Ron Paul has said that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman, but that marriage is an issue for the states rather than the federal government.