Friday, August 8, 2008

PFLAG Votes: A First Look at the '08 Platforms

As November draws ever closer, political parties both major and minor are beginning to outline their visions for the country as part of their party platforms. Every four years, ahead of their nominating conventions, the parties outline their big picture political visions for the direction of the country, the priorites for the next four years and the principles they choose to guide them through the legislative process.

This year, both the Democratic and Republican parties invited members of the public to participate in the platform process. Party supporters from across the country were invited to weigh in with their thoughts and ideas as the country's two largest political parties put together their vision. It was the first time, in fact, that those who were not "party insiders" were encouraged to participate in the process, and the results are now beginning to emerge.

This morning, the Democratic Party released its draft 2008 platform, including some broad, and some specific, LGBT positions.

The party's draft platform states that "Democrats will fight to end discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age and disability in every corner of our country, because that's the America we believe in." It goes on to note that, "We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act. We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us."

And, earlier in the document, the party calls for repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gay troops, writing that, "We will also put national security above divisive politics. More than 10,000 service men and women have been discharged on the basis of sexual orientation since the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was implemented, at a cost of over $360 million. Many of those forced out had special skills in high demand, such as translators, engineers and pilots. At a time when the military is having a tough time recruiting and retaining troops, it is wrong to deny our country the service of brave, qualified people. We support the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' and the implementation of policies to allow qualified men and women to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation."

The party's platform has called for repeal of the law before, and it's a welcome position to see in the draft document, as is the language emphasizing a commitment to equal opportunity and non-discrimination.

And though Republicans have not yet released their platform, another, smaller, party has, and also includes important language for LGBT Americans, their families and allies in its document.

The Green Party of the United States, which has nominated former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney as its presidential nominee, released its platform over a week ago, and it includes specific language endorsing non-discrimination and marriage equality.

In a stand-alone platform section titled Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the Green Party "affirms the rights of all individuals to freely choose intimate partners, regardless of their sex, gender, or sexual orientation," and goes on to say that "We support the recognition of equal rights of persons gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender to housing, jobs, civil marriage, medical benefits, child custody, and in all areas of life provided to all other citizens."

The party's platform also includes specific language calling for equality for transgender and gender-variant people. "We support the right of all persons to self-determination with regard to gender identity and sex. We therefore support the right of intersex and transgender individuals to be free from coercion and involuntary assignment of gender or sex. We support access to medical and surgical treatment for assignment or reassignment of gender or sex, based on informed consent," the platform says.

As we head towards the November elections, it's important to know if America's political parties and candidates will begin to address the needs, and equality, of the LGBT community. And it's important, too, that voters are well-educated about the issues, and the candidates' stances, before they head to the polls on November.

Check back here at the PFLAG blog for more insights as we continue our get-out-the-vote effort, including reports on the Republican and Libertarian party platforms, coming soon. (In the meantime, weigh in on the platform debate at Pam's House Blend, too.)

And remember, on November 4, to Listen to Your Parents (For Once)!: Vote.

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