On Our Radar – “Democrats: Say I do.”

  

Will the 2012 Democratic Party Platform call for marriage equality? Freedom to Marry wants to make sure that happens, and you can help. The group’s new campaign: “Democrats: Say I do” is On Our Radar.

 We are rapidly approaching that time in the election cycle when the parties write their platforms – a list of their legislative goals for the next four years. Each issue, known as a plank, will have someone – an interested party, an advocacy group, a lobbyist – to present that issue to the Platform Committee. The committee decides if that issue will be included, and almost as important, if included, they telegraph how strongly Democrats will support that issue by their choice of “language”.

For instance, four years ago, this was the Democratic Party’s “plank” on LGBT issues.

 << We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections. We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act. We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us.>>

If that short statement seems weak-kneed and watered down, that’s only because it was weak-kneed and watered down.

This year, one of the strongest, most effective lobbying groups for marriage equality, Freedom to Marry, with the support of other high-profile LGBT advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Stonewall Democrats, has launched a campaign to persuade the Democratic Platform Committee to use much stronger language to proclaim the Party’s support for marriage equality, recommending this statement be adopted:

<< 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. >>

 To convince the Democratic Party Platform Committee to adopt this clear and unambiguous “language” Freedom to Marry has laid out a multi-tiered campaign called “Democrats Say I Do”.  Their comprehensive strategy, which includes obtaining the endorsement of elected officials and Party Leaders, has already had some high-profile success. As The New Civil Rights Movement reported this week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced she was on board with including marriage equality as a party plank. As encouraging as the former Speaker’s announcement is to the movement, the plank is still a long way from a done deal. But you are in a unique position to help get this done.

In 2008, the Obama campaign changed the Democratic platform development system to include the voice of the people. It is no longer just a lobbyist’s game. This summer, the party will hold regional field meetings in every state of the nation, in which citizens and local groups will be able to offer their own ideas for the party platform. Each of these meetings will produce a written report, which is reviewed by the Platform Committee before it votes. We need to make sure marriage equality is reported back not only favorably, but on the top of each and every local report in big red letters.

The Freedom to Marry website says it plans to enlist local same-sex married couples, and couples not allowed to marry, to tell their stories at these regional platform meetings. In fact, I noticed a “Tell your story” link on their website. It’s not hard to guess what they’re searching for. A national lobbying group is just not the best organizer for this kind of tactic, which depends on finding sympathetic personal stories. But we are!

The platform hearings aren’t held until summer. That gives grass roots gay and lesbian groups, and sympathetic people of all kinds, time to ferret out the most articulate members of the community, with the most compelling real life stories about how being able to marry changed – or could change – their lives. Then we need to enlist them and prepare them to tell their tales to their own regional panel.

So take inventory of the people you know. Look for heart-wrenching predicaments. Look for the successful children of same-sex couples. Look for senior citizens not allowed to care for their long time partner in a nursing home. I can’t tell you exactly what to look for, but you’ll know it when you find it. I personally saw a news story here in Michigan about a lesbian couple raising special needs children together, yet only one or the other, but not both, are allowed by state law to adopt them. I am going to try to find them and get them to tell their story.

So please help craft the message! Find the most compelling stories in your hometown. Then contact Freedom To Marry. Let’s make sure every single one of those Regional Platform Meetings ends with not a dry eye in the house.

If we don’t succeed this year, it will be four more long years until the chance comes again. So from now until the convention in Septemeber, Democrats: Say I do! will stay On Our Radar.

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