Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts said in a telephone interview Monday that the Democratic Party will affirm its commitment to marriage equality in the platform currently being drafted and that the move has his “full support.”
“Yes, it will be in the platform,” said Frank. “I am in favor of it being included and it will be included.”
The out gay congressman, who is retiring this year, sits on the 15-member platform drafting committee that heard testimony from advocates in Minneapolis this past weekend. According to the Washington Blade, Frank said the committee had made a “unanimous decision” to include the marriage equality plank.
A DNC spokesman told The Advocate that specific platform language was not available at this time. The full platform committee will consider the proposal next month in Detroit, and the process will culminate at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this September. If ratified, the plank would represent the first time the party's platform has articulated support for marriage equality. President Barack Obama announced his personal endorsement of marriage equality in May.
During testimony on Friday and Saturday, committee members heard from a range of individuals and organizations, both LGBT-specific groups and allies, about marriage equality and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as other priorities including the Student Non-Discrimination Act and ending discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. According to advocates and a list provided by the DNC, speakers included Marc Solomon of Freedom To Marry; Michael Macleod-Ball of the American Civil Liberties Union; Allison Herwitt of the Human Rights Campaign; David Munar of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago; Charlie Morgan, chief warrant officer of the New Hampshire National Guard, and her wife, Karen; and Aaron Zellhoefer for the National Stonewall Democrats. The National Council of La Raza, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and AFSCME, all of which have expressed support for marriage equality, also testified, as did other groups.
Solomon hailed the committee’s decision in a statement. Freedom To Marry this year launched its Democrats: Say I Do campaign, a call to include marriage equality in the party platform that has been endorsed by top Democrats and more than 42,000 signatures from the public.
“We are grateful for the Platform Drafting Committee’s unanimous vote to include the freedom to marry in its draft of the Democratic Party platform,” he said. “As I testified to the Committee on Friday, the Democratic Party has a noble history of fighting for the human and civil rights of all Americans. We are proud that the Committee is including language that will ensure the Party is leading the way forward in supporting marriage for loving and committed same-sex couples and their families.”
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is representing Chief Warrant Officer Morgan, who has incurable stage-four breast cancer, her wife and other couples in a federal lawsuit seeking equal benefits for servicemembers and their spouses, also celebrated the move by the Platform Drafting Committee. Buzzfeed reported over the weekend that Frank told the Morgans that he “supported [their] cause" after their testimony on Saturday.
"At SLDN, we are pleased that the Morgans were able to tell their compelling story to the committee, and we share their joy in learning that the freedom to marry will indeed be included in the Party's platform this election year,” said spokesman Zeke Stokes. “We hope that all political parties will embrace this American value and support every loving and committed couple who wishes to marry."
In his interview with The Advocate, Frank said that the Democratic Party had already cemented its support for marriage equality at three key points in the past year and a half. He cited President Obama’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, the House Democratic leadership’s dissent in the 3-2 decision by the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to continue defending the 1996 law, and the overwhelming majority of House Democrats who have voted against measures to reaffirm support for DOMA, including an amendment that passed the Republican-controlled House this month.
“The fact is, by every action that should be taken, the Democrats in Washington have repudiated DOMA,” he said.
While the campaign to include marriage equality in the platform has received substantial attention, Frank said that he believed the intense focus on the largely symbolic document was “misguided.” He said it was “more important” to acknowledge House Democrats’ near-universal opposition to DOMA, while almost every House Republican had voted to reaffirm it.
“We’re talking about a vote in Congress that determines what in fact the law will be,” he said. “That does seem to me to be more important than a party platform.”
Frank, who married his partner last month, brushed back a report from The New York Post last week that suggested he had been hedging in his support for including marriage equality in the platform. He said that whether or not to include the plank had always been a matter of how “specific” the conversation became.
“If it got into specifics, marriage equality should be included, and since it’s getting into specifics, marriage equality will be included, and I’m for that,” he said. “We are including marriage equality with my full support.”