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Democratic Platform Includes Same-Sex Marriage


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. It wasn't all quiet on the Democratic front as the Republicans announced Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate. In Detroit, leaders of the Democratic Party met to approve a platform ahead of next month's convention and for the first time, the democrats approved a plank endorsing same-sex unions.

NPR's Sonari Glinton reports from Detroit.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Every four years, in addition to nominating a presidential candidate, both parties get together and essentially ask themselves, what do we believe? They're called platforms and the Democrats met to approve theirs in Detroit.

MAYOR CORY BOOKER: Good morning, Democrats.

CROWD: Good morning.

BOOKER: All right. Looks like we're ready for the day.

GLINTON: Newark Mayor Cory Booker chaired the event and as he led the meeting, Booker acknowledged that the Democratic platform committee meeting probably had been overshadowed by a few other events.

BOOKER: Why don't you wait until you get to the microphone? We would like the 13 people watching on C-SPAN to know who you are. Welcome to all 13 people watching on C-SPAN.

GLINTON: The party's platform takes a stand on everything from Wall Street reform to health care to support for gay marriage. That's the biggest change since 2008, matching the president's changing position. There was almost no debate and very little rancor.

BOOKER: So what I would like to do is get an all encompassing resolution ensuring that this is a grammatically tight document.

GLINTON: Grammar was about as big an argument that was had on Saturday. Gary Segura is a professor of political science at Stanford University.

GARY SEGURA: What's changed is the visibility with which the parties engage in this. So once upon a time, there would even be, you know, really contemptuous blood letting on the floor of conventions over a particularly controversial plank.

GLINTON: Examples would be 1948, when many Southern Democrats split off from the party over Civil Rights or in 1984 when Republicans took up a right to life plank. This year there was a portion of the platform titled freedom to marry, which endorsed same sex unions and called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Stanford's Gary Segura says the lack of drama over platforms is because now they're largely symbolic.

SEGURA: So when you run for office as a Democrat or Republican, you don't sign some commitment to support every element of the platform. In fact, you probably don't know most of what's in it. So it doesn't really bind anyone.

GLINTON: Segura says to be sure, both parties will use the other's platform to gain political points.

SEGURA: So while we might think that the presence of a same-sex marriage equality plank is a very big deal, it's absence would also be a very big deal.

GLINTON: There are very few big deals in the platform. Delegates sped through the approval and what was supposed to be an eight-hour day ended in just over three hours with enough time for Newark's Mayor Cory Booker to give a speech.

BOOKER: Whether you are a gay man in San Francisco, whether you are a blue-collar worker in Newark, New Jersey, this is the party for you and we must stand for your rights and for you values and your American dream, too.

GLINTON: Booker joked he ended the platform meeting in record time to make way for campaigning and watching the Olympics. Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.