These have hardly been the lazy days of summer. Out of view of the political campaigns, the Democratic National Committee has been preparing for its Sept. 3-6 convention in Charlotte, N.C., during which President Barack Obama will be nominated for a second term. A critical aspect to the pre-convention process—and one that will define what the Democratic Party stands for—is agreeing on the Democratic Party Platform. And California Rep. Adam Schiff is leading an effort to ensure that marriage equality is adopted as a Democratic Party principle.
“Over the past few months, the LGBT community has seen a groundswell of support for marriage equality, largely stemming from President Obama’s announcement,” Schiff said in a press release. “Marriage equality would extend one of our most basic rights of citizenship to all Americans—the right to marry the person you love. Everyone should enjoy all the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship without discrimination. By making our belief in freedom and equality for all, including those in the LGBT community, part of the Democratic party platform, we can make marriage equality one step closer to becoming the law of the land.”
“I’m working to organize the California Congressional Delegation to speak with a united voice and urge the party to adopt marriage equality as part of the platform,” Schiff told Frontiers by phone on July 18. “So far the delegation has responded with great enthusiasm, and we now have a majority of the California members who have agreed to sign on, and we’re getting more members every day and I’m confident we will have not only a majority but almost all, if not all of our members on board.”
So far, Democratic Party leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., and convention Chair L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have already announced support for a marriage equality plank in the party platform.
Specifically, Schiff is asking members to sign onto the Freedom to Marry letter to the Democratic Party Platform Drafting Committee. The language of the plank would go into the families section and says:
“The Democratic Party supports the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, with equal respect, responsibility and protection 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.”
Signing onto the letter also matters for what it tells that representative’s delegates to the convention. Schiff said he has not yet discussed the marriage plank with Villaraigosa directly, “though I think his efforts could be enormously important. And given his long leadership role on this, it would be a natural for him. And given his leadership among the League of Cities, he could also be very instrumental in marshaling support among mayors around the country.”
He hopes the effort “can be parlayed” into a larger effort to create a unified voice. “I think we can have a multiplier impact both on other members around the country, as well as on the grassroots and the Party activists,” Schiff said. “We’ll probably work with the organization that is the umbrella group behind this congressional effort—Freedom to Marry—and see if we can strategize to see what’s the best way to amplify this message at the congressional level but also broadcast the message to the delegates and the activists, because what others may be doing in other parts of the country we may want to emulate, and vice versa, so that we don’t have to invent the wheel in all of our districts separately.
“California has always been a progressive leader, and other states often look to us—often for well, sometime for ill—to follow our example,” Schiff continues. “But if California wasn’t playing a role, in terms of the Democratic delegation on equality, then who else would? We really ought to be out on the vanguard on this, and I’m really proud of the response we’ve gotten so far, which has been overwhelmingly positive.”