Some thought that marriage equality would get relatively little mention from the podium at the DNC this week. Party officials could have pointed to the historic inclusion of support for marriage equality in the party platform with constituencies most favoring the policy change, while keeping things relatively quiet at the convention because of the continued divisiveness of the issue in the general public. Instead, the party has gone all-in on marriage. It was mentioned by almost every major speaker on the Convention’s first night. A key reason, the issue moves younger voters whom the party needs to turn out in large numbers. Gallup polling over the past year shows that support for marriage equality exceeds 70 percent among voters under 30.
Also interesting was how the speakers framed the issue. Most used the libertarian frame, focused on keeping government out of people’s private decisions. In several speeches, it was tied to the women’s right to choose. As Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick put it, “We believe that freedom means keeping government out of our most private affairs, including out of a woman’s decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy and everybody’s decision about whom to marry.” This is a particularly effective framing of the issue in places like Arkansas where a certain queasiness about “big government” persists.
However, First Lady Michelle Obama went a different, bolder direction in her framing of the issue, placing it in the context of the broader, historic battle for a more just America. Towards the close of her speech, Obama said: “…if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love…then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.”
Just as the relative (by recent GOP standards) quiet on the issue at last week’s RNC, the full embrace by the Democrats shows how fast the issue is moving. Truly extraordinary.