Democratic Platform Draft Includes Marriage Plank

Congressman Barney Frank, a member of the Democratic platform drafting committee, has confirmed that the committee has unanimously approved language supporting marriage for same-sex couples in this year’s national Democratic Party platform.

The platform will be finalized at a meeting of the full platform committee in Detroit in August before being ratified on September 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Freedom To Marry and the National Stonewall Democrats testified in support of the language on Friday, July 27 in Minneapolis.

“We are grateful for the Platform Drafting Committee’s unanimous vote to include the freedom to marry in its draft of the Democratic Party platform,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry in a statement released July 30, 2012.  

Testimony on behalf of the National Stonewall Democrats were delivered by openly gay convention delegate Aaron Zellhoefer.

“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,” said Solomon. “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.”

You can read the written testimonies of both groups below:

Testimony of Marc Solomon before the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Drafting Committee

July 27, 2012

Mr. Chairman, members of the Platform Drafting Committee, good afternoon. My name is Marc Solomon, and I serve as National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. I'd like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify today in support of inclusion of a freedom to marry plank in the Democratic Party platform.

Freedom to Marry has led this campaign to secure a marriage plank in the platform. We've enlisted dozens of members of Congress, four former party chairs, and more than 40,000 Americans who have asked the Democrats to say, "I do" to the freedom to marry.

Several years ago, when I headed up the fight to protect the freedom to marry in Massachusetts--our nation's first marriage state for gay and lesbian couples-I had the great honor of working extremely closely with two members of this committee. Congressman Barney Frank was a tireless advocate, making the personal case to many, many state lawmakers. I remember Barney telling one conservative state representative, a bit tongue-in-cheek, "What if I want to get married someday?" Well, this year Barney did marry the love of his life, and there are same-sex couples in Massachusetts who have already celebrated eight years of marriage, to their great joy and the great joy of their loved ones. Ex officio committee member, Governor Deval Patrick, was also a passionate champion every step of the way who did not even know at the time he was fighting so hard that the freedom to marry that he was championing could someday apply to his wonderful daughter Katherine.

And one other Massachusetts hero who is no longer with us also dedicated himself to his cause, the late, great senator, Ted Kennedy. In one of his last addresses, Senator Kennedy said:

"For all my years in public life, I have believed that America must sail toward the shores of liberty and justice for all. There is no end to that journey, only the next great voyage."

President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to join us in this journey by supporting the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. He came to support marriage the same way so many Americans have in the last few years: through getting to know loving and committed gay and lesbian couples and learning more about their families, their challenges, and their dreams - and realizing just how similar they are to the families, challenges and dreams of all Americans.

The Democratic Party has a noble history of fighting for the human and civil rights of all Americans. 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.

Democratic governors throughout the country understand. They are leading the way for the freedom to marry in their states. Governor Andrew Cuomo made marriage a top legislative priority and led the effort to pass the marriage equality law in New York. Deval Patrick championed that freedom in Massachusetts. In Washington, Maryland, and New Hampshire, Democratic governors spoke up strongly and fought hard to pass and protect freedom to marry laws in their states. They recognize it is the right thing to do for all of the citizens they represent.

And it is not just governors. More than 250 Democratic mayors, from Kansas City to San Antonio, Juneau to Denver, Los Angeles to Boston, and Cincinnati to Tallahassee have joined Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. In addition, 170 Democratic members of Congress have cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

These leaders reflect how far voters have come in supporting the freedom to marry. A May 2012 CNN/ORC International poll found record support -- 54 percent of Americans, including 70 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Independents, and 73 percent of voters between the ages of 18 to 34. For Democrats, support is no longer a risky proposition; instead, it's becoming increasingly difficult both morally and politically to justify not supporting marriage for gay couples.

Political professionals agree. According to the National Journal Political Insiders Poll a year ago, 84 percent of Democratic operatives said their party should embrace marriage, compared to 59 percent just two years ago. I imagine it's close to 100 percent today. In the words of one political consultant who responded to the poll: "It's going to happen. We might as well start to lead."

Seven years ago, I worked closely with Congressman Frank and other Democratic Party leaders in Massachusetts to get a marriage plank included in the state party platform. Since then, a number of other states -- both those with the freedom to marry, like Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont -- and those that have not yet enacted marriage laws, like New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming -- have followed suit.

Five additional states and the District of Columbia have joined Massachusetts as freedom to marry states, with we hope three more to follow this November.

It's now time for the national Democratic Party to not only come on board, but lead the way forward.

On behalf of Freedom to Marry the campaign, the many loving and committed same-sex couples and their loved ones--both married and not-yet married--living throughout America, the supermajority of Democratic voters and the majority of all Americans, I ask you to say "I Do" to the freedom to marry and lead on this journey of liberty and justice for all, the one about which Senator Kennedy spoke so eloquently and to which he was so powerfully dedicated.

Again, thank you for your time.


National Stonewall Democrats Testimony before Democratic National Committee
Platform Drafting Committee

By Aaron Zellhoefer, July 28, 2012, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Good morning Mr. Chairman, Governor Strickland.

Greetings, Members of the DNC Platform Drafting Committee and fellow Democrats.

My name is Aaron Zellhoefer and I am speaking on behalf of the National Stonewall Democrats, the national voice of LGBT Democrats, the largest LGBT organization working with the Democratic Party and working to elect Democrats across the country. I bring greetings from our Executive Director, Jerame Davis, our board, and local affiliates, LGBT Democratic clubs and caucuses from every state.

As a point of personal privilege, I would like to also take this opportunity to congratulate National Stonewall Democrats founder Congressman Barney Frank on his recent marriage to his long-time partner, Jim Ready. The entire Stonewall Democrats family wishes you both the happiness and fulfillment you both deserve.

We are here today to advocate for the passage of a plank that speaks specifically to full marriage equality in the national Democratic Party's platform.

This is the Time
Some may think that this is a leap for our Party, that the Party is not ready, or that it may be politically unwise to do this now. We say that as LGBT individuals, we are ready for marriage, and over 70% of Democrats – including President Obama - now agree. Change never comes easily, absent risk, nor when it is most convenient. Please also consider that failure to act at this moment in history may be, at best, a lost opportunity, at worst, a serious political error. The strong step on behalf of civil rights that our party took in its platform in 1948 (at the urging and leadership of Minnesota’s own Hubert H. Humphrey) was a strong statement of the ideals that our Party stands for. Just as importantly, it forged a national Democratic coalition that serves us well to this day.

President Obama made history by becoming the first sitting President of the United States of America to be outspoken in support of the freedom to marry. His leadership for our Party and our nation has forever changed the dynamic of this conversation and has created the opportunity to once again stand on the right side of history and to strengthen our diverse national coalition. Young people today, of all stripes and persuasions, are searching for the political party they’ll call home. Let’s make sure we’re speaking to their ideals of inclusion, freedom and diversity.

Upholding Marriage
Some think that we as LGBT individuals want to change the definition of the word marriage. To the contrary, we are seeking to join marriage, not change it – to affirm the ideals of strong families that are built on love, commitment, responsibility – supported by friends, family and the larger community.

When women were finally afforded the right to vote, did we have to change the word, “vote”? When our schools were desegregated, did we redefine, “school” or “education”? When we allowed openly gay people to join the army, did we have to change the word, "army?"

The freedom to marry the person you love builds families, strengthens the institution of marriage, and moves us one step closer to realizing full equality for all Americans.

State Battles this Year
In Minnesota we will be voting this November on whether we should change our state constitution to permanently limit the freedom to marry. Your leadership on supporting marriage equality right now, this year, will send a strong message and will be a huge boost in our efforts to not be 31st state to have changed their state constitution to limit marriage to only opposite sex couples. Rather, we could become the first state to vote no and reject one of these hurtful and harmful amendments. Three other states, Washington, Maine and Maryland, are also facing ballot measures in defense of the freedom to marry. Let’s all say together, “The politics of division stop here and stop now. This Party – our Party – will not stand for it.”

Love – and Practicality
I love the idea of marriage equality for just that reason...Love. To be sure there are numerous practical matters, provisions in our laws that allow us to care for and protect our families – to carry out the activities of life with some measure of dignity and confidence. In the state of Minnesota alone, there are at least 515 laws to which committed LGBT couples have no access. An examination conducted by the GAO in the aftermath of the passage of DOMA revealed over 1,100 federal rights and protections from which gay couples are barred. These range from areas that affect our lives as fundamental and far ranging as end of life issues, health care, health crises, credit, taxes, inheritance, legal relationships, public services, raising children, property ownership, and so on.

Dreams and Aspirations
On April 20th of this year, I celebrated my 10th anniversary with the man I love, my partner Kevin. The next day, I was elected and given the honor to represent Minnesota as a national delegate to the Democratic National Convention this September in Charlotte. To say the least, it was an exciting and momentous weekend. As I was running to be a national delegate I promised to work hard to see our Party pass a plank in our platform to include marriage equality.

It is important for me to tell you how much this means to me on a personal level. My brother Adam is getting married to the woman he loves in September. It is very exciting and heartwarming to watch him planning for that day, but I’ll confess that I'm also a little envious. I can't wait for the day that I can have the same opportunity. I can't wait until the day that I'm able to get down on one knee, and not say, “Will you civil union me?” or “Will you domestic partnership me?” Rather I can't wait until the day, where I'm able to go out for a romantic dinner, followed by a walk by one of Minneapolis’ beautiful lakes, with the stars twinkling above. I’m guessing that I will have butterflies in my stomach -- that exhilarating feeling so hard to describe, and be able to get down on one knee and ask, “will you marry me?” – with the full knowledge of what that means – that we’ll be actually getting married in every sense of what that word means.

I can't wait to call my mom and dad and tell them the good legal news. I can't wait to call my brother and ask him to be my best man. I can't wait to call my best friend Brian and tell him the good news. And I can't wait for that special day that we all dream about for years. With all of our family and friends, Kevin and I will able to say, “I do,” to marriage.

Today, I ask you to say, “I do.” National Stonewall Democrats asks our fellow party members, to say, “I do,” -- not to change marriage, but rather to include LGBT individuals in the full light of equal rights with the understanding that our right and freedom to marry the person we love builds lives of dignity and vitality.

I ask you to say, “I do,” to making my dreams – and the dreams of millions of gay and lesbian Americans - become reality.

Thank you for your time.

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