Friday, March 16, 2012

Marriage Equality: A Winning Plank

In 1996 I was still in Iowa and Chairman of the Platform Committee of the 2nd District Democrats.  Just a few years before President Clinton attempted, via presidential order, to remove the ban on gays serving openly in the United States military.  His attempt was thwarted by those believed the age old ban should stand, including old guard Democrats such as Senator Sam Nunn.  Thus the atrocious “compromise” known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was born.

As Chairman, I was able to place a plank in the 2nd District’s Platform calling for a repeal of DADT and to allow gays to serve openly in the military.  It was a plank I was proud of as only nine years before, I was denied entry into the Army because I was gay.  Oh sure, I could have dishonored myself by signing the contract which specifically required that I swear that I was not gay.  Why serve my nation in dishonor?  So I didn’t enter the Army and I didn’t dishonor myself.

At the state convention, I fought to place the same plank that was in the 2nd District’s Platform in the Iowa Democratic Party’s Platform.  Those of us who supported the ability of gays to serve openly in our nation’s armed forces were rebuffed by the old guard of the party.  I was mad at the old guard as the proposed plank was defeated.  I was ashamed, but not mad.

16 years later DADT has been repealed and gays are allowed to serve openly alongside their fellow Americans in our armed forces.  But a new battle wages on within the Democratic Party.  A battle to decide if the party will be on the side of equality for all or bow down to the will of the old guard and our milquetoast president.  The current battle is over whether or not the Democratic Party will have as a national plank in its platform the cause of marriage equality.

I understand why the question of having a marriage equality plank within the platform is even an issue of contention.  I understand that elements of the old guard would rather marriage equality play itself out in court rooms, ballot boxes and legislatures.  I also understand the old guard’s fear that support of marriage equality will be used against them by Republicans in this election cycle.  I also understand that the old guard would support such a plank if the leader of the Democratic Party, President Obama, wasn’t still “evolving” in regards to marriage equality.

But why is President Obama’s view on marriage equality still “evolving”?  Does he believe that gays and lesbians are somehow less than other Americans?  Does he view us as second class citizens who should not enjoy the same rights and privileges that he and “straight” Americans enjoy?  Why doesn’t he unequivocally support “equality for all”?

Does President Obama fear an electoral defeat if a marriage equality plank is included in the platform of the Democratic Party?  Does he fear he will lose the support of the moderates and conservatives he has kowtowed to all these years?  Does he fear that if marriage equality does become a plank that liberals will become too powerful within the party?  If President Obama doesn’t support marriage equality, should he still expect the support of liberals?

The Democratic Party is at a crossroads.   One wonders which path it will follow: The path of equality for all or the path of least political resistance?  I know which path I vote for.  What about you?

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