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A week in politics truly is an eternity. Just a few days ago, as supporters of LGBT equality and women’s choice excoriated the Republican Party platform — especially the call for an amendment banning same-sex marriage and no support for abortion rights for women who were raped — we were calmly assured that platforms don’t matter, most entertainingly by GOProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia, who said at his group’s convention party, ”We’ll have more people at our party tonight than who will read the Republican Party platform.”
Maybe the Republicans were too busy reading the Democratic Party platform, given that Romney running mate Paul Ryan just blasted it for ”purging” all mention of God. First, as an acolyte of famed radical atheist Ayn Rand, you’d think Ryan wouldn’t have a problem with that, but intellectual consistency isn’t exactly his calling card. Second, it shows that the people who publicly care the most about a particular political platform are often the people from the other party.
It’s unfortunate, because I happen to be in the camp that believes party platforms are important. Just to be clear, they’re neither the Magna Carta of modern politics nor a Rosetta Stone into the mind of presidential candidates. They’re not fun reading because they are the end result of a multitude of cooks in a chaotic kitchen.
What they are, though, is a reflection of what’s important to a party’s base. While I personally might prefer hearing a Beethoven symphony performed by nails on chalkboard to actually attending a political convention, I understand why the hordes of activists from both parties descend on their conventions with silly hats, rehearsed chants and remarkable enthusiasm. They care. Even if, in the case of Republicans, they care about the wrong things.
So, while platforms may be easily dismissed as simple red meat for the like-minded (or flypaper for the opponent), it’s important not to overlook the fact that the Democratic platform is a historic step for LGBT rights in its inclusion of marriage equality as a core principle for the party.
It may seem anticlimactic after President Barack Obama’s public endorsement of marriage equality. (It kind of is.) It may seem to overshadow the entirety of the LGBT issues. (It definitely does.) But it’s part of a remarkable moment in our political culture that we shouldn’t underplay. The Democrats as a party are going all-in on marriage equality, something that even four years earlier was undreamable.
Twenty years ago, Pat Buchanan gave his famous kulturkampf speech at the Republican convention; last week in Tampa there were tepid mentions of ”traditional marriage” in prime time followed by a quick change of subject back to the main message, ”Trust Mitt.”
And Tuesday night, we had Michelle Obama, the first African-American first lady, include marriage equality in her knockout speech — in the same sentence as her call to the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. These past four years have been such a flurry of firsts, some of which I simply never thought I’d see until well past my retirement years, if at all, that it is easy to lose sight of just how astonishing those changes have been. That’s not a call to complacency or contentment. We still have marriage battles to win, transgender rights to fight for, and a woman to put in the Oval Office.
If, God forbid, I were to wake up one morning suddenly straight, it wouldn’t do anything to change my vote in November because my vote isn’t determined solely by my orientation. But as a gay man, I know which party embraces my equality.
That’s worth more than our acknowledgment. It’s worth our vote.
Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. You can reach him at sbugg@MetroWeekly.com or follow him on Twitter, @seanbugg.