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Posted at 04:22 PM ET, 03/15/2012

Will Dems punt on marriage equality?

In recent weeks, a debate has been raging between leading Dems and gay rights advocates over whether the Democratic Party will make full marriage equality a plank in the party platform at the upcoming convention. Antonio Villaraigosa, the chair of the convention, recently stoked the fires when he said having such a plank would be “basic to who we are.”

But now The Huffington Post reports that Democratic National Committee officials have been privately pleading with advocates for patience on the issue, because it’s still viewed by top party officials as “politically sensitive” and potentially alienating to culturally conservative swing state Dems. HuffPo reports the DNC worries that “sweeping platform language would put the president in an awkward bind,” since President Obama is still “evolving” on gay marriage.

I checked in with Richard Socarides, a prominent gay rights advocate, for comment on this, and he was adamant: The gay community, an important Dem constituency, will settle for nothing less than an unequivocal expression of support for full marriage equality.

“There is no reason for delay,” Socarides told me. “This is an issue that everybody knew would come before the platform committee at least since last June, when we passed marriage equality in New York. The Democratic Party needs to stand for full equality for LGBT Americans. There shouldn’t be any issue or discussion over whether the Democratic party supports full equality.”

“Either you’re for full equality or you’re not,” he added. “Any Democrat who thinks we can finesse this as a party this year is delusional.”

Discussions between advocates and top Dems have already been going on for some time. Socarides revealed that he’d privately raised the issue with DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz a few months ago.

“She said, `We’re looking at it,’” Socarides told me.

The DNC does have to go through a process to settle on final language, and a spokesperson for the DNC reiterated to HuffPo that the party remained committed to crafting a platform that “reflects our values.”

It seems clear that Dems will have little choice but to place an unequivocal declaration of support for marriage equality in the party platform this fall. So doing, of course, could put more pressure on Obama to evolve on the issue already. On the other hand, if the party doesn’t place language in the platform, a core Dem constituency will feel angry and betrayed eight weeks before the election. So this is coming to a head no matter what.

By  |  04:22 PM ET, 03/15/2012

 
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