President Obama’s leadership  opened floodgates that ultimately led to marriage equality plank in Texas Democratic Party platform


BOYD WAS BIG, TOO  | An LGBT delegate holds a sign in support of marriage equality while outgoing Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie — who came out for marriage equality before Obama in May — speaks during the party’s state convention in Houston last weekend. (Courtesy of Patti Fink)


Moore ErinThank you, President Obama. When the president said he supported marriage equality, the floodgates of support opened and gave the go-ahead for progressives in the Democratic Party and fair-minded Americans everywhere to take one more step toward equality for all. Real leadership is powerful and empowering — in a president, in a party and in voters.

While the president’s statements of support for marriage equality came a day after an anti-gay marriage amendment passed in North Carolina — the state where the Democratic National Convention will be held in September — the immediate impact of his voiced leadership on marriage equality was huge and widespread, particularly among African-American voters who have typically opposed marriage equality:

• Ten days after President Obama spoke out in support of marriage equality, the NAACP — the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization — voted overwhelmingly to endorse marriage equality.

• Polls in Maryland — where a voter referendum is on the November ballot essentially to ratify or reject a marriage equality bill already passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor showed an equally dramatic shift in opinion among African-American voters: From 39 percent to 55 percent in support of marriage equality, and opposition dropping from 56 percent to 36 percent.

• Nationwide polling conducted just days before and after the president spoke out reveals that 59 percent of African-American voters now support marriage equality, a jump of 18 percent. And among ALL American voters, 53 percent believe that marriage equality for same-sex couples should be legalized, a distinct “evolution” from just 39 percent in 2006.

It’s been breathtaking to witness. Yet, within my party in Texas, support for marriage equality hasn’t always been so clear, depending upon who you talk to and when. A big sign for me that change was in the air was the TDP announcement in early May that our outgoing State Chair Boyd Richie had joined 10 other state Democratic Party chairs in supporting marriage equality.

And when we gathered in Houston, this year’s Texas Democratic Party Convention had a decidedly different tone, feel and energy than past conventions. It was less “old school” and much more “let’s DO something.” With this spirit, a large group of dedicated people worked to get the Texas Democratic Party Platform to include marriage equality, same-sex parent adoption, decriminalization of marijuana, and repeal of the death penalty. The LGBT members and straight allies on the State Democratic Executive Committee worked long hours persuading people, serving on committees, running for seats and marketing the idea of the Texas Democratic Party standing for something instead of trying to appease and play nice.

A remarkable thing happened along the way. Delegates to the convention not only supported the ideas, they were elated that something was being said. “It’s about time” was a common remark. And when individuals running for various positions within the Party were asked if they support marriage equality, the responses were time and again unanimous — “Yes!” “Definitely!” “Absolutely!”

For the first time in my memory, the platform got applauded and cheered when presented. Additionally, a record number of 33 LGBT Texans are going to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.; 26 delegates, two alternates and five members of national convention committees.

What does all of this mean? Is it just empty rhetoric? The platform is the marching orders for candidates. It defines what each party believes.

While the Texas Democratic Party Platform calls for “full inclusion of all families in the life of our state, with equal respect, responsibility and protection under the law, including the freedom to marry,” the platform of the Republican Party of Texas states: “We oppose the recognition of and granting of benefits to people who represent themselves as domestic partners without being legally married.” Texas Democrats want to strengthen the James Byrd Hate Crimes Act and the federal Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Prevention Act; Republicans want to repeal them. The differences are clear.

Perhaps more meaningful than what the platform signals for candidates is what the platform says to Texas voters. We can now point to a document that represents all of us. A document that says we believe in supporting you. A document that says we hear you and now we are going to do something about it. It is a platform in the truest sense:  People can stand upon it and announce, “This is me. This is what I believe.”

In a time when the Tea Party is driving the Republican Party farther and farther to the right and moderates have no voice, the Democratic Party is rediscovering its base, its values and its leadership. This platform loudly and proudly states that we believe in equality for all.

Thank you, President Obama.

Erin Moore is leadership council co-chair for National Stonewall Democrats.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 15, 2012.