Political party platforms are meant to be the guiding principles, core values, and desired actions of a party. They are a roadmap for members and, more importantly, for voters that show where a particular political party wants to take the country, given the chance to set the agenda. This year the two major parties' political platforms tell a tale of stark differences on equality -- one of a party looking forward, and one of a party seeking to drag social progress back decades.
The 2012 Democratic Party Platform
On the one hand, this year's Democratic Party platform is the most pro-LGBT in history, complete with support for both marriage equality and fully-inclusive employment nondiscrimination protections:
We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples...
We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.
We know that putting America back to work is job one, and we are committed to ensuring Americans do not face employment discrimination. We support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because people should not be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Having one of the two main parties include support for marriage equality, condemnation of the odious "Defense of Marriage Act," and support for a version of ENDA that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes is a historic move. Moreover, the language used, tying employment discrimination protections directly to the larger fiscal issue of job creation, shows a party that finally understands that for many in the LGBT community, social issues like equality are very much inexorably tied to fiscal and financial issues; many in the LGBT community get hit with the double struggle of a bad economy and still-legal employment discrimination against them.
The Democratic Party Platform shows a party willing to see where the majority of Americans are when it comes to basic equality for LGBT people. It also shows a party willing to move forward, despite vocal opposition and social controversy around equality.
The 2012 Republican Party Platform
On the other hand, this year's Republican Party platform seems to want to pull the country backwards when it comes to equality for LGBT people. While the conservative gay organization the Log Cabin Republicans said that the Republican Party platform might actually include a "positive nod" toward LGBT people with a vague line about the "dignity and respect" of all Americans, the reference made no specific mention of LGBT people. In fact, the party platform includes some horrific language that proves that for the GOP, LGBT people are not among the Americans who deserve "dignity and respect."
In fact, a look at who authored the anti-gay language contained in the Republican Party platform shows just who influences the current GOP: Tony Perkins of the virulently anti-LGBT hate group the Family Research Council. In fact, Perkins bragged about his influence over the party's social agenda, telling BuzzFeed, "You should read the entire plank on marriage, which I wrote. I feel very happy about it."
And the language speaks volumes about that influence. The Republican Party platform opposes marriage equality and supports a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the "union of one man and one woman." The platform also criticizes the Obama administration's decision not to defend the horrendous Defense of Marriage Act in court, attacks the judiciary for making pro-LGBT decisions in states, and makes its arguments using attacks on the lives of LGBT people and blatant distortions torn from the pages of the publications of hate groups like the Family Research Council:
A serious threat to our country's constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values...
An activist judiciary usurps the powers reserved to other branches of government and endangers the foundation of our country. We oppose the Administration's open defiance of this constitutional principle -- in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts -- makes a mockery of the President's inaugural oath.
We reaffirm our support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other states to do so.
It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, are less likely to engage in crime, and are less likely to get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic wellbeing of individuals. Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom... We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage.
To be perfectly clear, the Republican Party platform not only opposes basic rights for LGBT people but erases the very idea of our families. The underlying message in the language is that only heterosexual couples with children are "families," while any other make-up outside that antiquated notion (including same-sex couples with children) simply aren't "real" families. In fact, the social science they refer to by "intact married families" absolutely includes same-sex couples raising children, yet the GOP seeks to use distortion to erase our very existence.
Beyond that, the Republican Party wants to write that level of discrimination into our federal constitution; they want to change the document they constantly wrap themselves in to take rights away from a specific group of people.
This platform shows a party taken over by extreme social zealots, like Tony Perkins, who want to strip LGBT people of their rights and drag forward-moving social progress in our country to a grinding halt.
The Stark Contrast
While not everyone in a political party agrees with every plank in a party platform, the political manifestos do shed important light on the stark differences in the two major parties of today. One party seeks to respect and expand rights for LGBT people, while the other looks to take rights away and make our community invisible.
While some political issues thrive from healthy debate and disagreement, like fiscal or foreign policy, some things should be beyond "political stances." Basic civil rights and respect for all Americans should be a given, despite the politics at play. But when a party like the GOP hands its moral compass over to divisive and extreme people like Tony Perkins, we cannot look away. There are lines in the sand that must be drawn to stop the people who would drag us all back instead of forward, whatever your political persuasion or views on issues beyond equality.
The choice has never been clearer when it comes to civil rights for LGBT people. Which platform would you be proud to stand on?