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Working Towards an LGBT-Inclusive Platform

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:28pm

On Thursday evening, BuzzFeed reported that the draft 2012 Democratic National Platform includes, as part of an overall endorsement of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, a call for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in Congress.  This important legislation would completely repeal the discriminatory so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and provide married gay and lesbian couples with certainty that, regardless of where they travel or move in the country, they will not be treated as legal strangers under federal law. 

Late last month, in testimony before the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Drafting Committee, the ACLU urged that an endorsement of the Respect for Marriage Act be included, so we were particularly pleased to learn of this development.

Additionally, in a follow-up article, BuzzFeed reported that the draft platform include an endorsement of a fully LGBT-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) because “people should not be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

One of the key recommendations that the ACLU made to the platform drafters last month was to include an endorsement of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which, if signed into law, would have a profound impact in improving the lives of LGBT students in the U.S. by ensuring that discrimination and harassment of students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity has no place in our nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.  SNDA has been endorsed by the Obama White House, nearly 170 members of the House of Representatives, including every member of the Democratic leadership team, and 40 Democratic senators. 

The current draft platform includes a commitment to “prevent vicious bullying of young people and support LGBT youth,” which is a terrific statement to include, particularly given the reality that discrimination and harassment are often a tragic part of LGBT students’ daily lives at school.  Still, given the tremendous support for SNDA from both President Obama’s White House and more than 200 Democratic representatives and senators, the platform should include a call for Congress to pass what would be a critical civil rights law.

The strong and inclusive draft platform language to date is a testament to LGBT people, their allies in the quest for equality, and the broader transformation that has taken place in the country over the past two decades.  For some perspective, it is worth pointing out that July 12th was the 16th anniversary of the 342-67 vote in the House of Representatives in support of DOMA.  It would pass the Senate in early September 1996 by a lopsided vote of 85-14.  Today, one of America’s two main political parties stands on the cusp of endorsing the freedom to marry for committed, loving same-sex couples.  Talk about a turning of the tide.  Still, as advocates for LGBT people, we cannot rest in the comfort of recent successes. 

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The ACLU is committed to continue working for an America that is free of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and where LGBT people can live openly, with respect for their identities, relationships, and families. 

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