Swing States 2012: Pro Gay Marriage Position May Cost Obama

Signaling another step towards LGBTQ inclusivity and equality, Democrats recently announced that a pro-marriage equality plank may potentially be added to its party platform. Although the language is not complete, the Democratic Platform Committee is expected to review the proposal sometime between August 10 and12, followed by a vote on the measure in September at the Democratic National Convention. The adoption of this measure will be another example of Democrats’ withdrawn support of DOMA, the law which currently bars legally married same-sex couples from obtaining federal marriage rights and protections. Additionally, this plank will also contain some language that supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. If approved, a greater commitment to the extension of legal privilege and protection to a largely marginalized group in our society will be achieved, empowering a group that deserves just as many rights as any other.

A recent poll conducted jointly by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life and its Center for the People and the Press shows that 65% of Democrats as of August 1 support marriage equality, up 6% from an April survey. This helps show that the decision to add the pro-equality plank is in line with the sentiments of over half of the party’s constituents. However, this decision and statistic does not capture the feeling of many residents if the swing states up for grabs in the November election. One Indiana news outlet notes that “a majority of voters in several swing states have supported amendments banning gay marriage, including Ohio, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, where the ban prevailed in the May 8 primary.” Although this plank can be seen as a progressive step towards inclusivity, it may also be a costly one when it comes down to the votes in November.

Perhaps the aforementioned swing states will vote Republican since the GOP platform “call[s] for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman.” I believe that every individual is entitled to his or her own view and conception of marriage on a personal level, but I do not condone the drafting of legislation that would limit legal marriage to opposite-sex couples on the federal level. I understand that marriage is an institution mainly administered by the states, but the federal government should be a more neutral and inclusive body rather than one that purposely marginalizes a certain community. Adding this constitutional amendment would make federal marriage undeniably exclusionary. I would prefer no federal legislation at all than that which constitutionally sanctions the deprivation of rights on the grounds of subjective matter and interpretation.

Even R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay rights group, seeks to prevent endorsement of a legalized definition of marriage as heterosexual. His mission is to “eliminate anything perceived as anti-gay from the Republican platform” in an effort to promote inclusivity. It will be a tough battle for his camp to change the current Republican platform, but I support his efforts since they seek greater tolerance and treatment of diverse peoples. Many individuals from the right (and left) may not like, support, or condone marriage equality, but to take it to the level of an outright ban seems harsh and motivated more by a stance of personal morality as opposed to an objective criteria. Our nation should promote the equitable extension of freedoms and liberties rather than limit them to a select few, otherwise we seem less like the land of opportunity and individuality, and more like the land of conformity and compliance.