Delegates pass sweeping,
inclusive Dem platform
by Chuck Colbert
If gay Americans had a rendezvous with destiny in American politics, that moment occurred this week as the Democrats approved, on a voice vote, the most LGBT-friendly, major party platform in history.
Released on Labor Day in Charlotte, North Carolina, even before the 2012 Democratic National Convention got under way, the 39-page document – sweeping in its full embrace of gay equality, including same-sex marriage – garnered praise locally and nationwide from LGBT delegates, partisans, civil rights activists, and elected officials.
In addition to marriage equality, the Democrats endorsed LGBT family recognition, workplace non-discrimination protections, AIDS prevention, and a woman's right to choose. The party platform also reaffirmed openly gay military service and global LGBT rights.
Overall, "the 2012 Democratic platform builds on the party's strong commitment to equality for LGBT Americans in all aspects of their lives – in forming and protecting our families through marriage, in accessing employment and educational opportunities free from discrimination, and in simply being safe in our communities," said Michael Cole-Schwartz, who directs media relations for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization.
"It also reflects that equality should not just be part of the values we live at home, but also those we promote as a world leader," he added.
HRC last year endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket for re-election.
For his part, Jerame Davis, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats, offered a convention-floor perspective, Tuesday evening, September 4, right after delegates officially adopted the platform.
"When Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker presented the platform committee report, I had goose bumps listening to him talk about the promise of America and how our party is putting forth a platform to deliver that promise to all Americans," said Davis in an email.
"I will never forget this moment," he added. "Today our party and our president said what we have been saying for years – everyone deserves the freedom to marry, and we will not deny that right to loving and committed same-sex couples. It's now our job to get out there and make that ideal a reality."
San Jose resident Clark Williams, a convention delegate who co-chairs the LGBT Caucus of the California Democratic Party, called the platform "a momentous document, that for the first time commits the Democratic Party to marriage equality."
The platform is "nothing less than historic," he added in an email.
"The LGBT community is going to play a leading role in the outcome of the election," said Williams, who served as a member of the platform committee. "We must re-elect President Obama to ensure that the march toward full LGBT equality continues."
Another California delegate, San Jose City Councilmember Ash Kalra, a straight ally, voiced his full-throttled support for the platform's history-making affirmation of gays.
"There can be no such thing as equal rights if there is not an open, unequivocal statement of support for the rights of the LGBT community," he said through an email via his chief of staff.
"I am proud to be a member of a party that values inclusion over exclusion, and equality over disparate treatment. I believe that the Democratic Party platform ... is a historic step toward true equality," said Kalra, who represents Council District 2.
Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, Arthur Murrillo, unable to attend the convention, offered a global perspective. "The marriage equality statement in the 2012 Democratic national platform is an important development in human rights," he said. "Marriage equality support is another important reason to support the re-election of the president."
Party polarization – the startling difference between the Democrats' vision of the future for gays and the view of the Republicans on a range of LGBT concerns – is now absolute.
"There is literally no issue in the United States today in which the gulf between the two parties is wider than on the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to legal equality," wrote Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) in the most recent issue of the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide.
In fact, the two parties platforms' specifics provide a window into the differing worldviews of the Democrats and Republicans with respect to LGBT people.
For instance, in sharp contrast to the GOP's "We Believe in America" platform, the Democrats' "Moving America Forward" document affirms LGBT civil rights through federal law banning workplace discrimination.
"We support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because people should not be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity," the platform reads.
For the first time ever, not only do the Democrats affirm equal marriage rights, but also LGBT family recognition.
"We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law," the platform states. "We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal protections under the law for same-sex couples."
The platform calls for full repeal of the "so-called Defense of Marriage Act" and for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would require not only the federal government, but also individual states, to recognize same-sex marriages.
The Democratic Party also opposes "discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples," according to the document.
And in a nod to concerns about deeply held religious views on marriage as a sacred rite, the platform affirms "support for the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference."
Charles Martel, president of Catholics for Marriage Equality, an advocacy group, applauded the Democrats in voicing respect for the views of people of faith.
"Stating clearly that each religious denomination is entirely free to determine whether they wish to have a sacramental recognition of these marriages is full evidence that the government has no intention toward any coercion of religious liberty," he said.
By way of contrast, the GOP platform is outright hostile to marriage equality. The document decries "an activist judiciary" and blames it for "court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several states," which the Republican document calls "an assault on the foundation of our society, challenging the institution, which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children of cultural values."
The Republicans also assert, "It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that traditional marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, and are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage."
Various studies have shown, however, that children raised in same-sex households differ little from those raised by heterosexual parents.
Just last week, in an apparent put down of gay wedlock, Ann Romney told the Republican faithful, "What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage."
Altogether, as an overarching core principle, the Democrats' platform affirms, "No one should face discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability."
Accordingly, the document points to President Barack Obama's efforts in ending "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in full cooperation with our military leadership."
For nearly two decades, the highly discriminatory DADT policy banned openly gay military service and extracted significant personal cost and psychological toll on thousands of gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard and national guardsmen discharged under the law.
Even military personnel who served in silence paid a price. The platform includes a physician's poignant testimonial to suffering in silence and pride and joy of repeal.
"Because of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' each time I went off to war, no one was at the armory to say goodbye," wrote Dr. Vito Imbasciani, Colonel, California National Guard, Medical Service Corps.
He continued, "My partner, George Di Salvo, and I started a family five years ago by adopting two wonderful boys. But I kept their existence secret, because that's what the law required. Not anymore, however. Thanks to the unyielding efforts of President Obama, I can serve my country openly and proudly with my family by my side."
By contrast, one section of the GOP platform states, "We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness."
The Democratic platform also speaks to AIDS/HIV prevention. "We Democrats have increased overall funding to combat HIV/AIDS to record levels and will continue our nation's fight against" the epidemic, the document reads, adding, "President Obama established the first-ever comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy for responding to the domestic epidemic, which calls for reducing HIV incidence, increasing access to care, optimizing health outcomes, and reducing HIV-related health disparities."
"This is an evidence-based plan that is guided by science and seeks to direct resources to the communities at greatest risk," the platform states, "including gay men, black and Latino Americans, substance users, and others at risk of infection."
For their part as "science-based," the Republicans hold out that "abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS when sexually transmitted."
In other provisions of the Democratic platform, the party and the president "believe that women have a right to control their reproductive choices."
The document also vows support for "family planning services," such as "contraception in ... health insurance plans," which "the Affordable Care Act," or Obamacare, "ensures."
And the platform pledges, "to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers."
Finally, the Democratic Party platform frames "gay rights as human rights," stating, "The president and his administration have vowed to actively combat efforts by other nations that criminalize homosexual conduct or ignore abuse."
The platform also points to a State Department-funded program "that finances gay rights organizations to combat discrimination, violence, and other abuses."
And yet for all the Democratic Party's affirmation of LGBT Americans, at least one gay Republican sees it differently.
"Nothing the Democrats can put in their platform will hide President Obama's record on jobs and the economy," said Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, a partisan advocacy group, which has endorsed the Romney-Ryan ticket.
"They can fill it with every other thing they can think of as a distraction," LaSalvia said in a phone interview, referring to the Democrats.
"But the issues that most Americans, including gay Americans, care about are jobs and the economy. That's where the president has a failed record," said LaSalvia.
"Just like everyone else, the daily lives of gay Americans would improve in a better economic climate," he said.
Attempts to reach Log Cabin Republicans for a comment were unsuccessful.
Jobs and the economy notwithstanding, one national LGBT leader sees long-term advantages for Obama and his party.
"The Democratic Party has strategically chosen to jump all the way in the pool on LGBT issues and draw a sharp contrast with Republicans," said Wayne Besen, founding executive director of Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism.
"This is a wise move because Obama will be attacked for supporting marriage equality and those who won't vote for a candidate who supports LGBT issues is likely already a Republican," he added.
"The platform is an expression of this sea change and will energize the base and likely lead to record support from the LGBT community," he said.
The San Francisco Democratic Party will have a viewing party tonight (Thursday, September 6) to watch President Barack Obama's convention speech. The event, at Laborers Local 261, 3271 18th Street (at Shotwell and South Van Ness) runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. It is a fundraiser and tickets are $25 general admission. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (415) 626-1161.