Draft Republican Platform Ratchets Up 'Defense of Marriage'

Platform language advancing in Tampa reaffirms the party’s support for a federal constitutional amendment and blasts the “open defiance” of the Obama administration against DOMA.

BY Julie Bolcer

August 21 2012 9:54 AM ET

The unveiling of the stage inside of the Tampa Bay Times Forum in preparation for the Republican National Convention.

Efforts to mitigate the antigay planks in the Republican Party platform appeared to suffer a setback Monday when two subcommittees approved draft language that supports a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and harshly criticizes the Obama administration for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

BuzzFeed obtained the drafts, which include the endorsements of the constitutional amendment and DOMA first reported by The Advocate, in addition to support for “campaigns underway in several other states" to amend constitutions to outlaw unions between spouses of the same sex.

Compared to the 2008 platform, which said that the Democratic Party had “unbelievably pledged to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act,” the proposed language for 2012 is more full-throated. The new document contains two mentions of an “activist judiciary” and levels a direct attack against the Obama administration.

“We oppose the Administration's open defiance of this constitutional principle - in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts - makes a mockery of the President's inaugural oath,” says the proposed platform.

The language appeared to represent a win for social conservatives participating in the platform process. Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, claimed credit and told BuzzFeed, “You should read the entire plank on marriage, which I wrote. I feel very happy about it. I feel pretty optimistic about the outcome here.”

James Bopp, the chair of the Restoring Constitutional Government subcommittee that worked on the language, has been linked to the National Organization for Marriage. The Citizens United attorney has defended the organization in campaign disclosure lawsuits that seek to keep the identity of its donors hidden. 

The Log Cabin Republicans participated in the platform drafting process in Tampa, Fla. for the first time this year. The group had hoped to remove some of the antigay language and add more inclusive phrasing. Earlier on Monday, it was reported that a platform drafting subcommittee had approved language saying, "We embrace the principle that all Americans have the right to be treated with dignity and respect,” but the section does not specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity. The D.C. Republican Committee is the only state-level arm of the party to have adopted language inclusive of “sexual orientation.”

Log Cabin did not respond to a request for comment from The Advocate about the platform proceedings, which are ongoing through Tuesday, but a representative from the group had earlier said the support for DOMA and a federal constitutional amendment should come as “no surprise.” The 2008 Republican Party platform endorsed the positions, which are also supported by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, who will formally be nominated for president and vice president during the party’s convention in Tampa next week, when the platform will also be ratified.

Log Cabin has not yet announced whether it will endorse the Romney-Ryan ticket. A campaign is underway to ask the group to withhold its endorsement this year, as it did in 2004 when the Bush re-election campaign supported state ballot initiative and a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

The draft Republican Party platform language comes as national polls consistently show that increasing majorities of Americans support marriage equality, and state legislatures in New York, Washington and Maryland have recently passed laws with bipartisan votes.

Advocates noted the disconnect between these developments and the draft platform language in statements that criticized the proposed document.

“With a growing majority of Americans, a substantial majority of independents, and a super-majority of young people across the spectrum supporting the freedom to marry for all committed couples, it’s sad to see the Republican Party so out of touch,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom To Marry. “A party that proclaims its belief in freedom, limited government, and personal responsibility should not be doubling down against couples seeking to share in the commitment of marriage and the birthright of liberty and justice for all.”

Last week, Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry sent a letter taking note of the rapidly changing environment and asking the Republican National Committee Platform Committee to refrain from including language against marriage equality in the document. The Democratic Party platform committee voted unanimously this month to include the words “marriage equality” in its document for the first time, following a campaign from Freedom To Marry and other organizations.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, noted the contradiction between the draft language and core conservative principles. Lobbyists appealed to arguments about strengthening families in order to pass legislation in the Republican-controlled New York senate last year.

“The draft language extols the virtues of marriage which makes it all the more counterintuitive that it also calls for excluding an entire group of Americans from the institution," he said. "Their call for respect and dignity for all Americans should be matched with a commitment to making all families strong."

“This platform language certainly doesn't represent the whole of the GOP, which is continuing to add equality supporters to its ranks,” added Griffin. “As Americans and young Republicans increasingly embrace equality, politicians seeking to harm our community will not even be considered serious contenders at the national level.”

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