Reports came out today that the National Democratic Party is taking the first steps to add support of same sex marriage to its party platform – a move that would seem to hurt the efforts of Democrats in Arkansas that tend to straddle the fence on that issue.
The news was first reported on the gay news website, The Washington Blaze…
Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who sits on the committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the 15-member panel unanimously backed the inclusion of a marriage equality plank after a national hearing over the weekend in Minneapolis, in which several witnesses testified in favor of such language.
“I was part of a unanimous decision to include it,” Frank said. “There was a unanimous decision in the drafting committee to include it in the platform, which I supported, but everybody was for it.”
Frank emphasized that support for marriage equality is a position that has been established for the Democratic Party, from the president, who endorsed marriage equality in May, to House Democratic lawmakers who voted to reject an amendment reaffirming the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this month.
A Democratic National Committee staffer, who is familiar with the process and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the language in the platform approved on Sunday not only backs marriage equality, but also rejects DOMA and has positive language with regard to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The exact wording of the language wasn’t immediately available.
A representative of the Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) tells me they are still drafting their party platform so it remains to be seen if they will make a change. Their final platform will be approved at their state convention on August 18.
Currently, the state DPA platform, approved in 2010, is relatively silent on the issue of same-sex marriage, although it does include support for civil rights protection based on “sexual orientation” as well as employment protections based on “sexual orientation.”
Previously, the DPA platform supported defining marriage as only “between a man and a woman,” but this portion was removed in 2006 when Jay Barth was chairman of the DPA's platform committee.
By contrast, both the national Republican platform, approved back in 2008, an
d the state Republican platform approved this past weekend contain strong support for traditional marriage.
From the national GOP Platform…
Because our children's future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it. In the absence of a national amendment, we support the right of the people of the various states to affirm traditional marriage through state initiatives.
The Arkansas Republican Platform is even stronger with several sections addressing the subject…
The Republican Party of Arkansas supports the traditional definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment between a man and a woman, and we believe that marriage is the foundational unit of a healthy society. We believe in the sanctity of marriage and that the integrity of this institution should be defended, protected, strengthened, and nurtured at all levels of government. We urge the repeal of laws that place an unfair tax burden on families, including the marriage penalty tax. We believe that each individual family has the primary responsibility for its own welfare, including education, moral training, and conduct. We believe that the traditional family unit provides an ideal environment for rearing children.
It is quite a contrast and will be interesting to see how the Democratic Party of Arkansas handles this one, particularly since most Arkansans do not support same-sex marriage. A Talk Business/Hendrix College poll of the Fourth Congressional District this past May found that 69 percent of those polled oppose civil marriage between two individuals of the same sex, while only 26 percent support.
Regardless of whether the state party amends its state platform, Arkansas delegates attending the national convention will vote on the national change. The state delegation includes openly gay members Jay Barth, who was married to his same sex partner earlier this year, and the first openly gay state legislator, Rep. Kathy Webb. There are also party leaders such as Gov. Mike Beebe who has publicly stated he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman.