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Political parties differ on same sex marriage

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

One of the prominent social issues this election year is gay marriage. During the Republican National Convention, the party’s platform and political leaders said marriage is limited to one man and one woman. The Democratic platform calls for allowing same sex marriage.

Some gay Republicans called their party’s platform ‘ugly and harmful.’ The Log Cabin Republicans say they still hope the Republican party will eventually accept its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender members as equal, but not this election year. The Republican platform supports a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. And the party’s nominee agrees. From this online video from The Guardian, in May Mitt Romney made the point to graduates of Liberty University, the world’s largest evangelical Christian university.

“Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”

Log Cabin Republican’s director of programs Casey Pick has been quoted as saying the discussions about the platform were “hostile” about same sex marriage and the presence of the LGBT members might have made things worse for social conservatives on the committee.

Things are different at the Democratic National Convention here in Charlotte. LGBT Democrats are celebrating a record number of participants.

Jerame Davis is with the National Stonewall Democrats made up of people from the LGBT community. He says having more people at the convention is important.

“You cannot put ten thousand or more Democratic activists and lobbyists and elected officials in one place and not have a lot of great things happen whether it’s adding marriage equality to our platform which means the Democratic party itself now stands for basically the entire range of full equality for LGBT Americans. That is a big deal.”

Not only was marriage equality included in the Democratic platform, but the arena housing the Convention echoed with speeches calling for the right of any American to be able to marry the person they love.

But party platforms are not binding. Often politicians ignore the parts they don’t like. It does, however, make a statement about the overall direction of the party. Mark Brewer is the Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

“I think it’s just another step, another important step toward recognizing people and respecting all families, respecting all people.”

And Brewer says this plank in the Democratic National Party platform will be repeated when the Michigan Democratic Party holds its state convention this weekend.

This is all happening just a few years after the Defense of Marriage Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. That act banned the federal recognition of same sex marriage in 1996 –Clinton has changed his position since.

Michigan voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage or civil unions in 2004.

Brewer says people are realizing it’s discriminatory.

“I think things are changing. I think you’ve seen that in other states. I think you’ve seen that in society’s attitudes. Things, I think, are changing rapidly on that front. And we’re not going to stop advocating for full equality.”

The LGBT community is cautiously optimistic. EmilyDievendorf is with Equality Michigan, an advocacy group for Gays and Lesbians. She thinks people are noticing that LGBT people are all around them; they’re their neighbors and colleagues and friends.

“This denial of oh so many rights as a result of being denied marriage equality, and second parent adoption, and discrimination protections means that we are disabling members of our community and finally people are recognizing we have voices that perhaps should be listened to.”

But, the rest of society is just beginning to listen and some are putting their hands over their ears. And in the meantime, gay and lesbian people are left without the same rights as heterosexuals.

“I am not an equal citizen in the state of Michigan like you are or anyone else who has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex. It makes me very angry,” said Mark LaChey.

LaChey is an attorney and was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention. He says discrimination against the LGBT community is discrimination against fellow citizens.

“You cannot proceed with something that- and you can now tell in my voice I am angry- proceed with something that will really restrict what you can do both, on the one hand economically, but just in your very core saying, ‘No, you can’t do that and we’re going to tell you you can’t do that.’ And that’s a very basic civil right. And civil rights and civil liberties, I believe, are the core of both the true Republican Party –not the one that’s been hijacked-  as well as the Democratic Party.”

And the differences between the two political parties on LGBT rights are being played out more prominently than they have in past elections because the statements in the two parties’ platforms and from the parties’ leaders are in stark contrast.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.