Today's Democratic value: The freedom to marry

Four years ago, President Barack Obama inspired millions of Americans by bringing a message of hope to a country in search of a new direction. Today we are a nation with open service in our military, healthcare for every citizen, and a commitment to ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work. As we look to once again fire up voters in 2012, we as Democrats need to continue to lead and inspire Americans. By adding a plank to the 2012 platform calling for an end to marriage discrimination, we can do just that.

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I know some fear that doing so is politically disadvantageous. And while that shouldn’t be a determining factor on a matter of civil rights, in fact today’s polling shows that is simply not the case. Multiple national polls show that a majority of Americans support marriage for gay and lesbian couples.  Millennial voters support it overwhelmingly, with numbers as high as 70 percent according to a 2011 Gallup survey. That same poll showed that more than two-thirds of Democrats and nearly 60 percent of Independents support marriage equality. And a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that Democrats are more than four times more likely to support a candidate who favors the freedom to marry, and Independents twice as likely.   

My wife Barbara and I have had the great joy of being residents of Massachusetts and being able to witness thousands of committed gay and lesbian couples celebrate their love and share in the critical protections of marriage, just like the two of us have for more than 42 years. We’ve never been prouder of our state than when we were first to end that exclusion. I recall back then how so many thought there would be tremendous political consequences for lawmakers who supported the court decision and opposed repeal. Yet in two election cycles, not one of them lost.

Our Party already leads on this cause. Democratic governors including Jerry Brown, Andrew Cuomo, Chris Gregoire, John Lynch, Martin O’Malley, Deval Patrick, and Peter Shumlin have been on the front lines in their states. In state legislatures across the country and in Congress, Democrats are providing the overwhelming majority of votes and support for marriage equality measures.

Four years ago, no one thought ending military discrimination under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be easy.  And it was not—it took tremendous leadership to pull off. But I doubt anyone quite knew how low the political cost was or how great the payoff would be. By fighting for what was right, not only did we end a cruel form of discrimination, we gave Americans hope that together we could accomplish great things. It is time to once again lead in ending federal discrimination against gays and lesbians. Please join me in supporting a freedom to marry plank in our Party’s platform.  

Grossman, a former national chairman of the Democratic National Committee, currently serves as Massachusetts State Treasurer.