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Four Former DNC Chairs Endorse Marriage Equality In Democratic Platform

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HOWARD DEAN
Former Vermont governor Howard Dean is backing the push to embrace marriage equality in the 2012 Democratic platform. | AP

WASHINGTON -- Four former chairs of the Democratic National Committee called on the party on Wednesday to embrace marriage equality in the 2012 Democratic platform.

"We are proud that the Democratic Party fights for working families, economic justice, and equal opportunity for all," said Howard Dean, Donald Fowler, Steve Grossman and David Wilhelm in a joint statement. "Times change but our principles must always remain strong. That is why, as former chairs of the Democratic National Committee, we stand with Freedom to Marry, 22 Democratic senators, Leader Nancy Pelosi, and more than 35,000 Americans in urging the Party to include a freedom to marry plank in the platform that is ratified at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this September."

Dean, the former governor of Vermont, served as DNC chair from 2005 to 2009. Massachusetts Treasurer Steve Grossman led the organization from 1997 to 1999. Fowler was South Carolina state party executive director and CEO of the DNC convention in Atlanta in 1988 and was DNC chair from 1995 to 1997. Wilhelm ran the day-to-day operations of the 1992 Clinton-Gore presidential campaign and was DNC chair from 1993 to 1994.

The current DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), has not yet said she supports adding same-sex marriage to the platform.

The pro-LGBT rights group Freedom to Marry has led the charge on this issue, launching a campaign called "Democrats: Say I Do."

"Fighting for families, freedom, and inclusion in the American Dream is the Democratic Party's DNA -- its history, values, and vision for the country. That's why so many of the most influential Party leaders -- including, today four of the most recent Party chairs -- support a freedom to marry plank in the Democratic Party platform," said Freedom to Marry President and Founder Evan Wolfson.

If a plank is adopted, it would be the first time the party's platform has embraced marriage equality. The Democratic platform will be ratified at the national convention, which begins Sept. 3 in Charlotte, N.C.

The 2008 platform did not explicitly support same-sex marriage, though it stated, "We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us."

In 2004, the platform condemned Republican attempts to pass a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, but it also said the decision should be left to the states: "In our country, marriage has been defined at the state level for 200 years, and we believe it should continue to be defined there. We repudiate President Bush's divisive effort to politicize the Constitution by pursuing a 'Federal Marriage Amendment.' Our goal is to bring Americans together, not drive them apart."

In endorsing marriage equality's inclusion in the platform, the four former DNC chairs join almost half of all Democratic senators, several of President Barack Obama's national campaign co-chairs, the House Minority Leader and the chairman of the Democratic convention, among others. Obama says he is still publicly "evolving" on marriage equality.

A previous version of this article misattributed a statement to the former DNC chairs. It has been updated with the correct statement.

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