Lynne Sladky / AP
Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012 | 11:24 a.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- The Democrats made a number of changes to their party platform Tuesday night. But likely none was as historic – or emotional – as the party’s new position on marriage equality.
For the first time, Democrats stated in no uncertain terms that they support “equal treatment under law for same-sex couples,” including a repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. The Democratic platform also states the party’s opposition to state laws that “deny equal protection under the law” to same-sex couples.
“This is one of the main reasons I wanted to be here this year,” said Chris Miller, chairman of the Clark County Democratic Party and the first openly gay man to occupy the position. Miller is also a delegate to the convention.
“I get to vote for it the first time it happens,” he said. “It’s historic.”
The vote is especially noteworthy against the North Carolina backdrop. It was just a few months ago that North Carolina passed a law banning civil unions or any other marriage contract. It was just a few hours after that that President Barack Obama told the nation he supported gay marriage.
“A majority of Americans are supportive of same sex marriage now,” Miller said. “That basically happened in the last couple of months.”
“This is our platform. This is our American mission,” Newark mayor Cory Booker boomed Tuesday night as the crowd began to raise a wild and frenzied cheer.
Neither Booker, nor any of the other platform committee members who spoke about it, addressed the topic of gay marriage or marriage equality specifically by name. But the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction inside the arena was clearly prompted by the marriage equality plank.
“This is the demand from the next generation, who call to our conscience,” Booker continued, as across the arena, individuals began madly waving brightly rainbow-colored flags – a symbol of gay pride. “When they proudly proclaim…that we are a nation with liberty and justice for all.”
The crowd in the convention hall shouted those last words with Booker, and nearly drowned out DNC Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa as he asked who was in favor of passing the platform.
But more deafening was the silence that followed when Villaraigosa asked for “all opposed?” Nary a voice was heard. And so the party adopted the platform without dissent.
“I started crying when they passed the platform, and I didn’t stop until Michelle Obama,” said Nevada delegation guest Nancy Kuhns, “And I didn’t stop until Michelle Obama.”
The Democratic platform doesn’t change any laws, nor does it bind any individual to behave or vote in accordance with its tenet. But LGBT activists in the party still pointed to it as their crowning achievement.
“We dance around the marriage issue and try to get LGBT legislation passed, but marriage is the one thing everybody wants,” said Christopher Preciado, an LGBT activist and the youngest member of the Nevada delegation. “But usually, marriage is the last thing we’re going to get.”
But now that a party has committed to it, activists believe it will make their fight for marriage equality, whether at the federal level or the state level, much easier.
“I think now it will be the standard for a Democrat to say I’m pro-marriage equality,” Preciado said.