Villaraigosa Backs Proposal to Add Marriage Equality to Democratic Platform

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Wednesday March 7, 2012

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday endorsed a proposal that would add marriage for same-sex couples to the Democratic Party's 2012 platform.

"It's basic to who we are," he told Politico's Mike Allen at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. "I believe in family values and I believe that we all want to be able to have a family and marry if we want to. I don't think the government should be in that business of denying people the fundamental right to marry."

Villaraigosa, who chairs the 2012 Democratic National Convention, endorsed the proposed plank less than a week after U.S. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and 18 other senators publicly backed it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is among the other Democrats who have also endorsed the proposal.

Villaraigosa also co-chairs a bi-partisan coalition of 175 mayors that includes San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who back marriage for same-sex couples.

"We believe that the government shouldn't be getting in the lives-interfering with the fundamental liberty, the fundamental right to have a family, to marry," he said.

"It's been amazing the number of people who've just said, let's stop the culture wars. Let's get the government out of that business. Let's focus on what's important: the economy, getting people back to work."

Villaraigosa's announcement comes less than a month after a three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld now retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 ruling that found California's voter-approved ban on marriage for same-sex couples unconstitutional.

"I like to say L.A.'s a city that doesn't care who your father is-in my case they don't care that I didn't have one," said Villaraigosa in response to Allen's question about his mayoral record. "With Judge Walker's decision on marriage equality, they don't care if you have two of 'em. This is a city that says just do it."

A federal judge in San Francisco ruled on Feb. 22 that the federal government unfairly denied health insurance to the wife of a lesbian staff lawyer with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals under the Defense of Marriage Act. A disabled Army veteran from California last month filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs after her request for spousal benefits for her wife was denied. A group of eight gay and lesbian servicemembers and veterans maintains in a separate lawsuit that they filed in federal court last October that DOMA specifically prohibits the military from offering their spouses access to on-base housing, health care, burial rights at national cemeteries and other benefits that married heterosexual servicemembers automatically receive.

The Obama administration announced in Feb. 2011 that it would no longer defend DOMA in federal court. The White House also supports a bill that would repeal the law. A growing number of LGBT activists, however, have become increasingly critical of the president over his failure to publicly support marriage for same-sex couples.

Villaraigosa did not immediately respond to EDGE's requests for comment earlier in the week, but activists welcomed his endorsement of the proposed marriage equality plank.

"Having the chairman of the convention on your side is testament to the importance of this issue," said Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Fred Sainz. "Mayor Villaraigosa is right-marriage equality belongs in the platform."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.