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More of Obama’s Campaign Team Backs Marriage Equality 

More of Obama’s Campaign Team Backs Marriage Equality 

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WASHINGTON -- Three congressional Democrats and California's attorney general have joined a growing group of President Obama's campaign national cochairs who support a pro-marriage equality plank in the 2012 Democratic platform.

In responses to The Advocate, U.S. senator Michael Bennet of Colorado joined California attorney general Kamala Harris and U.S. representatives Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Charles Gonzalez of Texas in favoring Democratic platform language that affirms marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Organized labor's representation on the committee -- the AFL-CIO's Maria Elena Durazo of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor -- has also indicated her support for adding to the platform. All five are among the 35 national cochairs tasked with on-the-ground outreach and advising the campaign on key issues. "They each share the president's vision for a future where every American can have a fair shot at success, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded," Obama for America campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement last week.

That the cochairs' vision for marriage rights in America doesn't quite jibe with the president's current "evolving" position has not kept them from going public on the issue. They join three fellow cochairs who have staked out the same position: Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen and former Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold.

"Discrimination in our marital laws or otherwise against any Coloradan or American because of sexual orientation is unacceptable," Bennet said in a statement explaining his support for a pro-equality platform. "Two people who want to enter into a loving, committed relationship should be afforded the same legally recognized rights and benefits I enjoy with my wife."

The issue has been trending since mid February, when the group Freedom to Marry launched its "Democrats: Say I Do!" campaign to push for a marriage equality-inclusive platform, one set to be ratified September 3 at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Democratic National Committee representatives have declined comment on the platform at this stage.

Four months prior to the convention, North Carolina voters will decide whether to constitutionally prohibit same-sex marriage -- already illegal in the state -- as well as all other forms of relationship recognition for gay couples.

Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for The Coalition to Protect All North Carolina Families, which opposes the amendment, said Thursday, "We've heard from our supporters that it's important to them for the Democrats to support marriage. State Democrats are opposed to this amendment, and they take cues from party leadership. Beyond just the symbolism [of a pro-marriage equality platform], it's a critical component for us" to defeat the initiative in May.

Staffers for Harris, Schakowsky, and Gonzalez all confirmed the elected officials' support via email or phone responses. They did not officially endorse exact platform language proposed by Freedom to Marry (which can be read here) but did express support for the initiative's goal.

Other elected officials on the national cochair list voiced their support for marriage equality while declining to comment specifically on the Democratic platform. Such officials included Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Rep. Judy Chu of California, and Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. A spokeswoman for Rhode Island governor and campaign cochair Lincoln Chafee declined comment on the platform because Chafee is an independent.

Democrats who have also come out in support of the platform include House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (as confirmed by a spokesman to Metro Weekly February 15) and the cochairs of the Democratic progressive caucus, representatives Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, which also faces an anti-gay marriage ballot initiative this year, one slated for November.

The Advocate contacted elected officials on the national cochair list, comprising Obama for America volunteers, business, and religious leaders as well such figures as Caroline Kennedy, actress Eva Longoria, and Solmonese, the outgoing president of HRC. "Joe and HRC support inclusion of marriage equality in the platform," HRC spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz wrote in an email. "We've testified to the platform committee in the past and will again this year urging them to support marriage for gay and lesbian couples."

Earlier today The Huffington Post reported that New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman also supports the pro-marriage platform.

Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said Thursday, "This outpouring of support from elected officials and trusted Democratic advisers is phenomenal. At its best, the Democratic Party stands strongly for freedom and equality for every American."

The Obama campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

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