At a platform-drafting meeting last week, leaders of the Democratic Party approved an amendment to the party platform endorsing same-sex marriage. The measure is expected to be adopted later this month by the full platform committee and will be posed to delegates at next month’s Democratic National Convention.
Since the 2008 DNC, Democrats have been the primary motivators for successful marriage-equality legislation in three states and Washington, D.C. — as well as in states like Washington and Maryland, whose marriage-equality laws are being challenged. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 65 percent of Democrats are in favor of marriage equality, a jump from 50 percent in 2008 and 40 percent from 2004.
The time has come for the organization that represents Democrats to fall in line with the prevailing attitudes of its members.
Is the DNC only moving now because President Obama came out for marriage equality earlier this year? Perhaps. But the importance of the president’s endorsement, and the expected stamp of approval by the DNC, can’t be undervalued.
In the fight for marriage equality, much has been said about the challenge of reaching Americans who are in the “middle” — those who may approve of marriage for a gay family member or friend but who wouldn’t actually advocate for, or head to the polls to support, such legislation. The same can be said about reaching middle-of-the-line Democratic legislators: If those lawmakers can be given one more reason to support legislation that ensures equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, then we are one step closer to marriage equality for all Americans.
If the DNC incorporates marriage equality into its platform, elected Democrats who are unwilling to throw their hats into the ring will be at odds with their president, their party and a majority of voters — a spot in which few politicians would desire to be.
However, adopting a position and actually working on behalf of that stance are vastly different. Democrats need to have the courage of their convictions: Voting for marriage-equality legislation is not enough. If the party takes this step for same-sex couples, it is incumbent upon Democratic leaders to actively, and visibly, work with the public and elected officials from both parties to make legislative priorities of not just marriage equality, but also the myriad other issues impacting LGBTs.