I want to start out with the disclaimer that party platforms are not binding, but neither are they meaningless. Whether or not they accurately represent the members of the party or the policies enacted, they do provide a powerful statement about the ideals of the party. This is also not a statement about the merits or lack thereof on the other issues contained in the platforms.

The Democratic Party Platform (DPP)

The DPP made history this year by endorsing marriage equality. “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” (p. 53). The thing that I really appreciated about this section is that it very clearly supports civil marriage equality, but at the same time preserves the religious liberty of the dissenters. “We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference” (p. 53). This means that a church, like the Catholics, can refuse to provide any religious sacraments for same-sex marriage according to their religious convictions.

Policy wise the DPP also states opposition to “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” (p. 53). As well as supporting the full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

There is a section about continuing the fight against AIDS/HIV and how Obama has built upon what Bush had done in this area (p. 65-66). Some really amazing progress has been made against this disease and what was once thought to be incurable is not only becoming incredibly treatable, but researchers are quite close to a cure. This is not only a victory for the LGBTQ community, which is disproportional effected in America, but for all people in the world and especially Africa where the disease ravages hundreds of thousands of people, mostly straight.

On the issue of civil rights the DPP stands up for all people. “We believe in an America where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody plays by the same set of rules. At the core of the Democratic Party is the principle that no one should face discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status” (p. 51).

Perhaps one of the most encouraging statements is this one: “Recognizing that gay rights are human rights, the President and his administration have vowed to actively combat efforts by other nations that criminalize homosexual conduct or ignore abuse” (p. 69). This isn’t about pushing the “homosexual agenda” that the Republican Party Platform fear mongers about, but about ensuring that LGBTQ people aren’t beaten, imprisoned, and murdered simply for being queer. It’s not about marriage rights or education. It’s about the right to life. Ironic that the Democratic Party is more pro-life than the ‘pro-life party,’ at least on this issue.

The Republican Party Platform (RPP):

Interestingly the RPP actually has more to say on LGBTQ related issues, though sadly it’s in a negative way. In talking about discrimination the platform claims that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is Constitutional. “In the spirit of the Constitution, we consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral” (p. 9). Sexual orientation and gender identity are purposely exuded. It is interesting to note that the DPP says “gender” and the RPP says “sex.” I won’t go into the reasons why that may be, but it is an interesting distinction. Also the RPP includes “age,” but the DPP does not. While I agree that age discrimination is generally a bad thing, there are times when it is appropriate. I’m thinking of the military and FBI, both of which have an age bracket for hiring/recruiting and I believe both of them have mandatory retirement at a certain age. The RPP also includes “creed,” but not “ethnicity.”

The RPP includes a poke at ‘judicial activism’ that has led to a “court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States” and calls it, “an assault on the foundations of our society” (p. 10). While I am against legislating from the bench, it is the job of the judiciary to interpret the laws, and simply expanding the older interpretation of the laws is not legislating new law. As a side note, I do find it rather horrifying when conservatives condemn a few judges for ‘imposing their will upon the people’ (aka judicial activism), but throw huge parties when the mob imposes it’s will upon the people (aka passing a constitutional amendment by popular vote).

The RPP goes on to state its support of DOMA as well as an amendment to the US Constitution “defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman” (p. 10). And of course, “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” (p. 10).

In its section on the First Amendment the RPP expresses its support for the Boy Scouts (p. 12; cf. Kate’s post about that). While I do agree that private religious institutions should be free of government regulation in this area, I disagree that they should also be allowed to receive government money and remain free to discriminate. (This is why Patrick Henry College refuses to take ANY money from the government at all.) The RPP disagrees, however, and says that it “condemn the State blacklisting of religious groups which decline to arrange adoptions by same-sex couples” (p. 12). This is of course a reference to the Catholic adoption agency that was required to adopt children to same-sex couples since they received government funding. However, rather than just stop taking the government money, the charity decided to close its doors because they couldn’t use government money to support their discrimination. I found the last part to be rather interesting, though puzzling. The RPP “call[s] for a federal investigation into attempts to deny religious believers their civil rights” (p. 12). I’ve heard this idea thrown around many times before, but I have yet to see any evidence for an actual denial of civil rights against Christians, so my only conclusion is that this is just fear-mongering.

There is of course a section on “Protecting and Preserving Traditional Marriage” (p. 31). Which, as I’ve said before, I find absurd since the type of marriage being talked about is not traditional (patriarchy, woman as property with no rights, polygamy), but rather progressive (the nuclear family). I’m all for supporting marriage (and so is Dan Savage, the usually very bombastic LGBTQ rights advocate) even though I disagree that “the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard” (p. 31). Not that I’m endorsing one man and five woman marriage. There is one happy line to this section, which the Log Cabin Republican’s were quite happy about, that says, “We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity” (p. 31). It’s a lovely statement and principle, even if the RPP policy doesn’t adhere to it.

On a positive note the RPP has an extremely excellent section on adoption and foster care (p. 32). It’s truly amazing (and a bit long so I won’t quote it), and while I imagine it was unintentional it would actually be very supportive/beneficial to LGBTQ people, many of whom choose to adopt.

Back to the not so happy parts of the RPP, the section on healthcare research and development leaves out any mention of AIDS/HIV (p. 34). This is a change from past platforms, and a sad one. Since Mary Fisher’s call to action at the 1992 Republican Party Convention, the battle against AIDS/HIV has been of noticed importance. So while the emphasis on previously neglected areas of research is great, abandoning support for AIDS/HIV research is a terrible idea in light of the incredible advancements made recently and the ones being worked on. There is at least a mention of PEPFAR, President George W. Bush’s Plan for AIDS Relief as being very successful, so one could assume that that program to help those in Africa with current aid would continue (p. 47).

The section on healthcare has a great opening statement: “No healthcare professional or organization should ever be required to perform, provide for, withhold, or refer for a medical service against their conscience” (p. 34). However, it doesn’t stay in that high note, but takes a jab at California proposed law to ban reparative therapy for minors, which has passed through the legislature and is just waiting for the governor’s signature. “We likewise support the right of parents to consent to medical treatment for their children, including mental health treatment” (p. 34). This is worrisome because not only have numerous LGBTQ people who went through such ‘treatments’ testified to its harmful effects and that it doesn’t work, but mental health organizations are overwhelmingly opposed to it.

The section on supporting our troops is a mixed bag. The part about supporting the health, mental and physical, and well-being of the troops is absolutely wonderful without a doubt. At least there isn’t a blatant call for reinstating DADT (I’m mildly surprised that there isn’t), but there is a condemnation of it’s repeal. “We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness” (p. 42-43). However, there is a section that probably means they do want to reinstate DADT. “We will support an objective and open-minded review of the current Administration’s management of military personnel policies and will correct problems with appropriate administrative, legal, or legislative action” (p. 43). In addition there is section that takes a jab at the DoD’s recent gay pride month and one time allowance for members of the armed forces to participate in a gay pride parade in uniform. “We affirm the cultural values that encourage selfless service and superiority in battle, and we oppose anything which might divide or weaken team cohesion, including intra-military special interest demonstrations” (p. 43). This is an especially insidious passage as it implies that openly gay service members will weaken team cohesion and would that allowing gay people to serve openly is somehow in opposition to a culture of selfless service and superiority in battle. That’s really quite exceptionally offensive.

This section also includes a reference to supporting DOMA and says, “We support rights of conscience and religious freedom for military chaplains and people of faith” (p. 43). Of course, this is a reference to the religious freedom of people who oppose gay rights and marriage equality, not a reference to people who support them because of their religious beliefs. Taken by itself that statement could show support for chaplains that want to officiate same-sex marriage for those in the military, but when combined with the reference to DOMA, then we see the true anti-LGBTQ meaning. Apparently rights of conscious and religious freedom only count if a person is against the queers. It gets even worse in the next section, which talks about supporting the families of service members, unless of course they are LGBTQ because then their families do not receive any support thanks to DOMA. “The families of our military personnel currently serving, retired service members, and veterans must also be assured of the pay, health care, housing, education, and overall support they have earned” (p. 44).

Even the section on International Assistance includes anti-LGBTQ statements. The RPP decries how the effectiveness of our foreign aid has been damaged by the current administration pushing “the homosexual rights agenda” (p. 46). That’s right. The current administration’s efforts to ensure that LGBTQ people are not beaten, imprisoned, or murdered just for being queer is the reason our foreign aid has not been very effective. The RPP says it supports the cultures that promote discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people because our foreign aid efforts can only be effective if we support people’s hatred  and demonization of queers.

Support marriage, except same-sex marriages. Support families, except same-sex families. Support religious freedom, except for those whose religion tells them to include and support queer people. Discrimination is bad, except when it’s against queer people.

I can only hope these are the final gasps of fading anti-LGBTQ extremists in the Republican Party.