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Bipartisan Group Shifts Marriage Messaging to Commitment

Bipartisan Group Shifts Marriage Messaging to Commitment


A group of prominent Democrats and Republicans behind a new campaign wants to move discussion about marriage equality from rights and benefits to commitment in order to win over more Americans.

USA Today
reports on the launch Monday of the Commitment Campaign by the centrist Democratic group Third Way. Backers include Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, and Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee who came out last year.

Polling from Third Way and Grove Insight indicates that by framing same-sex marriage as a matter of equal rights instead of commitment, advocates may have perpetuated a politically harmful idea among moderates that same-sex couples want to marry for different reasons than other couples.

"When asked why 'couples like you' might want to marry, 58% said to 'publicly acknowledge their love and commitment to each other,'" reports USA Today. "When asked why gays and lesbians may want to marry, the respondents split between 'love and commitment' and 'rights and benefits.'"

Third Way believes that tapping into the broader reasons why people support marriage in general will allow advocates for same-sex couples' right to marry to make progress more quickly in courts, legislatures and at the ballot box.

O'Malley, who has made the passage of marriage equality legislation in his state a priority for 2012, said, "In this fast-evolving issue, we're all searching for common ground. And the way to have a conversation with those who would be inclined not to support marriage equality is to search for those common values that we share." On the national level, a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act is expected this Thursday, and state constitutional amendments will soon go before voters in Minnesota and North Carolina.

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Julie Bolcer