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On Independence Day

As America celebrates her 237th Independence Day, we live in a land that’s a little more free.  Today, there is a little bit more to celebrate.  We’re not completely there yet, but we have and we will continue to persevere.

Last week, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which takes us one step closer to full equality for the LGBT.  That section had barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where it was legal.

There are still questions and issues to sort out, but today, we can clearly say that we are moving in the right direction.

And in the words of former Vice President Dick Cheney, “Freedom means freedom for everyone.”


Dallas Morning News Endorses Marriage Equality


the_dallas_morning_news_logoThis newspaper applauds the Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear arguments in two same-sex marriage cases — one on California’s Proposition 8, which bans such marriages, and one regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage has been percolating at the state level for several years, leading to a patchwork of laws that create more confusion than clarity. The court can undo that confusion by determining the constitutional parameters of this issue.

We urge the Supreme Court to affirm the right of gay couples to marry based upon the fundamental American ideal of equality before the law. It is critical that the court also make clear that such a ruling won’t require churches whose doctrines oppose same-sex marriage to perform such ceremonies.

Debating the reversal of centuries of views about the institution of marriage cannot be considered without upheaval, and we recognize that the notion of gays and lesbians marrying can divide families, friends and, especially, generations. But the growing support for same-sex marriage, including within families whose gay members have changed the way these unions are seen, makes the embrace of gay marriage less of a radical shift.

Polls show that American attitudes have shifted dramatically on the subject. Surveys by organizations such as Gallup reveal that half or more of Americans support the concept of gay marriage. Equality in marriage laws is particularly embraced by younger Americans, including some younger evangelicals.

Even leading conservatives favor gay marriage. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is among the most notable. So, too, is former Bush solicitor general Ted Olson, who will lead the team arguing in favor of the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.

Olson contends that the federal government lacks the right to deny gay couples the opportunity to marry. He also will argue that the ban denies gay couples the right to due process. As the Republican wrote in Newsweek, “This bedrock principle of equality is central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives alike.”

We respect that some religious traditions see same-sex unions as an affront to their canons, scriptures and traditions. The First Amendment protects such places of worship from being compelled to conduct same-sex marriages. Additionally, the justices should take care to carve out strong and significant protections so that the institutions’ religious liberties, for instance their tax-exempt status, are not circumscribed.

In 2004, this newspaper opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. We have backed efforts to outlaw discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation. Now, we believe that the Supreme Court should conclude that equality under the law includes the right of gay couples to wed.

What’s at stake before the Supreme Court is how a secular society should respond to the growing demand for same-sex marriage. That is where Olson’s arguments seem so persuasive. How can a secular government grant marriage rights to some but not others?

Quoted in National Journal

The following article appears in the latest issue of National Journal and quotes me talking about adding INCLUSIVE language to the Republican platform.

Platform Puzzles

No cakewalk: The debate over gay marriage.

What’s black and white, rarely read, and often fiercely contested? Hint: It’s not a newspaper.

By Beth Reinhard

Family Research Council Action, a leading crusader for social conservative values, is sounding the alarm: Support for gay marriage is creeping dangerously close to the Republican platform.

“Strong voices within the Republican Party would like nothing more than to change the official stance in regards to marriage between one man and one woman,” warns a recent e-mail blast from the organization that rattles off a list of alleged heretics topped by former Vice President Dick Cheney and former first lady Laura Bush.

The e-mail promises that donations will be used to send reinforcements to the platform-committee meetings leading up to the Aug. 27 national convention in Tampa, Fla. “Someone has to keep an eye on them,” the group avows.

At a time when virtually all Republican-leaning states have banned same-sex marriage, could the GOP be on the verge of embracing gay rights in its sacred platform? No chance. The Family Research Council e-mail is less smoke alarm and more fundraising ploy—as well as a kick in the pants to the conservative grassroots in an election year.

Yet platform battles, even when stirred up by special-interest groups, the opposition party, or the media, often mark important political and cultural mileposts. The dustup over gay marriage is no exception. With President Obama this year becoming the first chief executive to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage, the issue may be eclipsing abortion as the central front in the culture war. And that shift, inevitably, will reverberate through the platform discussions of both parties this year and beyond.

Throughout American history, platform skirmishes have mapped critical shifts in each party’s balance of power. The Democrats’ abandonment of Prohibition in their 1932 platform, for instance, showed that, behind Franklin D. Roosevelt, the party’s urban northern wing had regained the upper hand over its evangelical solid southern one. Conversely, the GOP’s abandonment of support for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1980 platform signaled that social conservatives had eclipsed coastal moderates as the dominant force in their party.

Platform battles also reflect the particular ideology of that year’s nominee, because every standard-bearer tends to stray from the party line on some issues. Republican Bob Dole tried to dilute the party’s antiabortion stance in 1996. George W. Bush’s moderate positions on immigration reform colored the 2000 and 2004 Republican conventions, while John McCain’s apostasies on stem-cell research, campaign finance, and climate change worried conservative activists in 2008.

This year, Mitt Romney has committed himself to unwaveringly conservative positions on social issues (including support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage). But in a sign of the times, the District of Columbia Republican Committee—the equivalent of a state party—last month became the first official voice to call for inserting language into the platform that reads: “Individuals, without regard to sexual orientation, are entitled to full and equal protection under the laws and the Constitution.”

The D.C. Republicans don’t expect much support for their cause in Tampa. “I don’t think there will be a huge push for gay marriage at the convention this year, but we see this as the first spark,” said Robert Turner, a member of the District committee and the president of the local chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, which advocates for gay rights. “I do see it happening more four years from now and four years after that.”

Could Turner be right? Only 23 percent of Republicans supported legalizing gay marriage in a May 29-31 CNN/ORC International poll. But all surveys show support for gay marriage rising among young people. And Tom McClusky of Family Research Council Action worries about what might be called the Ron Paul effect: an increase in the number of convention delegates with libertarian streaks. The D.C. Committee’s push, even if it’s ahead of its time, isn’t likely to be the last try to force Republican platform writers to debate this issue.

If there is a platform shift on gay marriage this year, though, it likely won’t come until the Democratic convention opens on Sept. 3 in Charlotte, N.C. Currently, the Democratic platform calls for equality and opposes discriminatory measures but stops short of endorsing same-sex marriage. But with Obama’s embrace of gay marriage—and the same CNN poll showing that more than two-thirds of Democrats and exactly three-fifths of independents back the idea—that  language does not satisfy leading advocates. “We think it’s important to say the words, for the platform to be clear and say what a majority of Democrats support,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a gay-advocacy group. “It’s important for the party to get there.”

Wolfson’s group began agitating to include support for gay marriage in the platform even before Obama’s recent seal of approval brought its goal within reach. Freedom to Marry has secured support from 22 senators (strangely, several Democrats from red-leaning and swing states aren’t on the list!) and four former party chiefs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are on board. So is the chairman of the 2012 convention, Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa.

The vast majority of voters will never read the fine print, or even the bold headlines, of their party’s platform. But activists on the left and right recognize it as a useful yardstick in their larger effort to tilt parties toward their causes. “For those of us who work with candidates and elected officials, the platform sets a standard to hold them to,” McClusky says. “It comes down to accountability. We think it’s important to be very exact in the wording.” Which is why advocates on both sides of the gay-marriage debate will be watching every clause and comma when the party platform writers hunker down this summer.

This article appeared in the Saturday, July 14, 2012 edition of National Journal.

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