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-It's My Party?-

This summer I was able to experience the political process in some tremendously exciting and, at times, frustrating ways.  For me, the end result was a renewed faith in people and disappointment in a large portion of the political "system".  In my refusal to accept that my only political worth lies in my invisibility, I wanted to provide an account of some of my experiences along with a plea to YOU for help in requesting that the Michigan Democratic Party support the resolution it adopted as a part of the MDP 2004 Platform Resolution Package. In this it was resolved (in regard to Proposal 2):

"…that all Democrats are urged to participate in efforts to educate voters about this ballot proposal."

The coordinated campaign is now in "persuasion mode" and will continue to be through the end of Election Day. There is a great opportunity for the MDP to support its resolution and educate voters on the dangers of Proposal 2.

So, here is a recap of some of my experiences with an election, the MDP Pre-Convention Platform Committee Meetings, drafting and presenting resolutions and fighting to garner support against Proposal 2 within the political process.


This summer, after feeling like I had to try to do all I could to feel better about the political process as well as the fight against discrimination, I decided to run as Democratic Precinct Delegate write-in candidate. This ended up being a remarkable experience. We put together a flier (and attached a pencil with the write-in information included on it…created by adhering clear laser-print labels…it was a riot seeing people show up at the polls with the pencils to take in with them while voting!), completed a very targeted canvassing Monday evening and worked the polls 13 hours (sunburn!) election day Tuesday. There were 193 votes cast in our precinct. About 30 of those were Republican and I was running as a Democrat, so, it being a primary, I was out any of those votes.  45 were absentee... again, no chance there for me as a late write-in.  Down to 120-ish possible votes in total.  Ended up with 83 votes - they threw out four due to errors ("David O'Brien", etc., which was still a much lower percentage than we had anticipated given the hoops folks had to jump through to cast a write-in vote;)  Ended up with 79...the top vote-getter!  The poll workers said it was the first time they had seen it happen for a write-in candidate not included on the ballot with four other people on the ballot and they couldn't believe it.  I surely was surprised…figuring there was no chance – especially with so many absentee ballots. They were really great at the polls…as were almost all of the people I was able to speak with that day. It was such a terrific experience to see how much people have in common… and not the overwhelming differences that some political leaders would have us believe. I was able to learn so much about the democratic process as well - a fascinating opportunity. I know I was very lucky.
Our county Democratic Party Convention took place shortly after. About 111 delegates and many other interested people attended. The agenda included meetings of three committees, one of which was the Resolution Committee. I decided to participate in this committee. (Delegates were able to select participation in one of the three committees including the Rules Committee, Credentials Committee and Resolution Committee.) In the meeting, resolutions were brought before the committee for introduction and debate. A group of us were concerned that, although the resolutions we were hearing were outstanding, there was not one regarding Michigan’s proposed “marriage” amendment. We quickly met and I submitted the following (please see below). Which, was accepted UNANIMOUSLY! Later the three committees presented their report and the accepted resolutions were voted on by the entire group. There was some debate on various resolutions, but they were all adopted!!!
All resolutions adopted during the convention will be forwarded to the state platform committee for adoption and are to be advocated by the county’s delegation to said committee.
Following this incredible event, there were caucuses for the purpose of electing state pre-convention committee delegates and alternates. Included were two positions to the State Platform Committee - one male delegate and one male alternate delegate - to represent he 15th district. They accepted four nominations and someone nominated me. It came down to two of us and was really close. The delegate was great and I know he’ll be strong. I was elected as the alternate, and was so excited and more than a little surprised. Regular people can actually get involved and feel like they have a voice, and it can happen more quickly than I would have ever guessed. The resolution is included now and I will be attending the Pre-Convention Platform Committee training session and meeting!
On voting day, I also convinced someone I met who was working for the Coalition For A Fair Michigan to run in his precinct. (There were NO Democratic Delegate candidates running in his precinct!) He won! Just as a side pitch, PLEASE consider running in your precinct in the future. These are positions that afford a voice in the creation of the party platform, and having my friends and allies among the people making these decisions would certainly make me feel more optimistic.
What is most amazing to me is that anyone –including someone as boring, regular and simple as I- could participate and feel, as mentioned earlier, that it made a bit of a difference.
The entire experience has been more than I could have ever imagined. I mention the resolution only because it ties in with the “marriage” initiative info. included in this update, but there were many exciting and hopeful events the last few weeks.
Here is the resolution as submitted and adopted:
TITLE OF RESOLUTION: Oppose the proposed “marriage” amendment to the Michigan Constitution.

Drafted by: Chris O’Brien
WHEREAS: (It being a fact that:)

  • Same-sex marriage is already against the law in Michigan.
  • This Constitutional amendment would permanently ban civil unions for all unmarried couples.
  • This Constitutional amendment would force employers to cancel the insurance and pension benefits they already offer to the unmarried partners, both gay and straight, to tens of thousands of Michigan workers.

RESOLVED: (A decision or solution to be made)
The county Democratic Party opposes constitutionalized discrimination against unmarried couples and Michigan families.


Next came the Pre-convention Platform Committee meetings, which took place in the city of Lansing, right around the corner from the State Capital Building. Although I was very optimistic regarding the resolution to oppose Proposal 2, Things took a very disappointing turn. My experiences are included in the letter I sent the next day:
Dear Ms. Howell,
I am writing with a great concern I have regarding recent events and since I have not heard back from an “emergency” message I left with the Coalition’s office yesterday, am hoping you can assist.
My name is Chris O’Brien. I have been engaged in the fight against the proposed Michigan amendment and anti-gay activities very actively and aggressively since the beginning of July. I have been compiling a mailing list of supporters and distribute updates and action alerts as frequently as possible. I am writing for national sites regarding the issue and have included your site link as a resource in most of the emails I’ve sent on the issue.
I was so concerned by the recent political climate that I decided to run for a precinct delegate position in August –as a write-in candidate- to, hopefully, have some voice in the Democratic Party platform. I worked the polls 13 hours on Election Day and ended up the top vote getter and even convinced one of the Coalition folk conducting a survey at the polls that day to run and we worked together for hours and he won, too!
After the election, I was able to introduce a resolution opposing the proposed marriage amendment at our county convention. It was adopted – unanimously- by both districts. I was also nominated/elected to be one of two delegates to the state pre-convention platform committee, which met this week to consider, among other items, the resolutions adopted by the counties.
I was shocked and disappointed when I discovered that the chair (Mark Brewer, Executive Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party) was recommending the committee not support the five resolutions (representing 6 districts minimally- which was a very strong number of resolutions adopted on a similar topic). This was especially true since included in the platform is as section beginning with “We will vigorously promote measures that ensure the full civil rights of Michigan’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens.”
To provide a brief run-down on the events of the meeting regarding this issue, here is the overview… the resolutions adopted by counties were presented in a packet to those in attendance. We worked through them by category/similar theme. This continued until we came to those dealing with opposing the proposed amendment. We were told that section would be skipped until 8 pm when a call from a Kerry Campaign rep. would come in to address them. This call never came, so we finally began debate as a group. The chair initiated the discussion by aggressively recommended tabling (killing) all five resolutions, as they were not in keeping with John Kerry’s stance. (But, obviously WERE in keeping with the platform as noted above.) I, and I was the only one who was treated this way even during MUCH more heated debates on other issues, was told I had “had my chance to talk” when I attempted to answer another delegate’s questions about the possible ramifications of the amendment (I was attempting to relate information regarding the situation in Virginia). I intentionally did not speak at any other time so that I would have the chance and had my hand risen – as was infrequent in the case of many of the debates of the first meeting. (And at both meetings, there were people who spoke numerous times…and when participants with experience/knowledge were present, they were specifically asked to participate – except in the case of these resolutions. They were three of us there who worked to have a chance to speak and inform.) This was so extreme that I approached Mr. Brewer after the first meeting and asked if I should even attend the next night as I was told my chance to speak was over.
The room was actually turning in support of the resolutions, despite the initial efforts of Mr. Brewer, when he dropped the bomb which did them in…announcing to the room that they were working with the Coalition For A Fair Michigan and that the Coalition had asked that they not support these resolutions in platform consideration (so as to not create a conflict for John Kerry’s campaign). It was very difficult to convince the others of the need for support at this point. We were able to ask for a resolution that would support “public education” on the issue – which was submitted and we amended slightly, upon the motion made by another local resident with wording supplied by Mike. and our fellow resident - the next night. The goal of this resolution was to be “neutral”, however and could not express outright opposition to the amendment at any level. While I supported it, helped amend it and appreciate the efforts of all those involved creating it, including Mr. Brewer, it is toothless, as one would expect if the goal was to be neutral.
Two points of additional interest as well. First, the wording on the original resolution I submitted was almost verbatim the information on the fliers the Coalition distributes and this was the only group of resolutions skipped and then addressed separately out of approximately 80 resolutions.
After the first meeting, I wanted to connect with the contact person Mr. Brewer told us he had with the Coalition. We were told this was Dana Houle (sp?). I called yesterday and related the situation, our need for a response from Dana and the time of our meeting last night. (I was told he would be in the office shortly.) I provided my cell phone number, which has voice mail, and I have not received a return call as of yet.
As you can imagine, I have a multitude of concerns. After investing so much of my life into the situation and efforts to have these resolutions introduced (fighting many odds!), I find it beyond disappointing that the Coalition would take the stance represented by Mr. Brewer, and am looking to you for encouragement on this issue. I am also disappointed that these opportunities were lost and there is no second chance here. A returned call could have helped greatly. The fact that one was not received in a matter of this importance (the state Democratic Party platform) overwhelms me. While I am aware of the need to be politically savvy, I also know that we had a room full of people who would probably have supported these resolutions – the people who could have made the difference- and all the efforts and work invested by many were lost in large part due to the representation of the Coalition’s position. This would have been the final step necessary to have the resolution included. If the Coalition is working as closely with the party as represented, I was surprised that someone from the Coalition was not in attendance at the meeting, especially when there was such an obvious concern about these resolutions that they were handled separately. They could have been.
Ironically, the next night Mr. Brewer made the following comment when the group was considering another potentially volatile resolution,” this is a divisive issue, which is not to say we can’t take a position on it.” How different the presentation of this issue was.
After the first meeting, I was told by a Kerry campaign rep. to “keep the faith”. I asked, based on my experience that evening as well as Kerry’s on-record position on this issue (including Kerry’s recent quotes: “I disagree with the Massachusetts court’s decision”, and regarding Missouri’s passage of their amendment, “I have the same position as President Bush” saying that he would have voted for the amendment. Again, this is not the Democratic Party’s position – a huge difference) where I would obtain “the faith” to “keep”? He said that was a “good question” and when I asked what his answer was; his response was that he didn’t have one.
Please let me know where the Coalition stands on this matter. I am very concerned. I look forward to passing this information along to those on my mailing list.
Thank you for your time,
Chris O’Brien


Other than to inform me that I needed to speak to someone else, my numerous requests for a written response were never answered. I will never know what the actual situation was other than the fact that I felt my efforts were dismissed by one or both of the groups I believed were representing millions of citizens…myself included. Others, some of whom were in attendance at the meetings, began expressing their outrage and quickly a campaign to question the MDP and others about the situation arose. This resulted in emails circulating – expressing concern that those who were working to have their opinions on the issue heard should acquiesce and let “the power players” handle things as they felt best. Often it was expressed that those of us who were questioning the situation were actually putting the campaign at peril. This treatment I find unacceptable. While I appreciate the concerns and opinions of all who weighed in on the issue, I felt - and still do feel - as I expressed in my response to the postings and emails that were circulating:

I've really appreciated having the chance to read some letters about the marriage amendment/democratic platform issue. I certainly agree with different thoughts from all the letters. And I really appreciate the concern and support on this issue. The amazing goodness of people has been the most overwhelming part of this experience for me.  

Having experienced this situation first-hand, and, honestly, coming out feeling very disappointed and disillusioned, due of the handling of events and people, I wanted to respond quickly. (And thank you for the opportunity.)
I ran as a precinct delegate on a specific mini-platform. Included were these two points:

  • To work to ensure equality for all citizens and access to all civil rights and privileges.
  • And to strive for fiscally responsible social progress to better the quality of life of Michigan citizens.

As I was elected to this position – a Democrat - on these points, I must work toward them diligently. Which is not to say negatively or without political awareness. I don't feel there has to be one approach to working for ideals. This week has taught me many things - the importance of respect and integrity being paramount. I think it sells people short to have them believe there is only one way to make an impact and to fight for change. Fear should not play a role when considering leadership - or in questioning it.
I am very proud to have drafted/introduced the resolution opposing the proposed marriage amendment which was unanimously adopted at our County Convention...and honored to have been a part of the process that helped bring the substitute "education" resolution - and its amendments - out of the Pre-Convention Platform Committee meeting and to the State Democratic Convention. The vast majority of those in attendance at the meetings were supportive in regard to this issue, concerned and battling the fear of impacting Kerry's election potential in Michigan when they made a difficult decision. I applaud their efforts and those of Mike and Martin.
Just a few things I wonder, though:

  • If we don't support ourselves, how can we expect others to do so?
  • How can we hold any person or group accountable for their support - which we are compromising so much to receive - when it is secured in secret?
  • If we accept a platform that is not truly represented, why should we not expect compromise on many issue(s)? And then what is its worth?
  • If our concern as Democrats is being attacked for a stance against the proposed amendment, isn't including “We will vigorously promote measures that ensure the full civil rights of Michigan’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.” in the platform risky? And isn't it concerning to people to include this in the platform and not support it?
  • I don’t want my (as a gay person) political contribution to be one of invisibility.
  • I'm not comfortable with my life and democratic process being bartered without my approval...called me old (e)-fashioned;)
  • There were five similar resolutions introduced and adopted by minimally six districts at the County Conventions. A very large number of resolutions sent to the Platform Committee on one issue. Within our two districts alone, we had over 110 delegates in attendance and many more spectators. Multiply this by the number of districts adopting similar resolutions and one must expect that people are bound to share concerns that the position of the resolutions was excluded from those adopted. Making delegates who even approach the subject of this feel that they are risking either campaign appears counter to the democratic process.
  • What if we end up with Bush and the amendment?
  • I'm worried about honesty and integrity...old-fashioned once more.

(I understand the concern - or rather wish it weren't a selling point, which I know in reality it is- about the CFM position stating, "gay marriage is already illegal in Michigan". I would also point out that while she is wonderfully supportive on many issues, Governor Granholm's position is the same.
Here's what I mean about the similarity:

“The governor’s position has not changed,” said Mary Dettloff, Granholm’s deputy press secretary. “The governor does support the current legal definition of marriage, that being between a man and a woman.”
“We already have a law in Michigan that bans gay marriage, and the governor supports that law.")
I have been requesting a written clarification from the Coalition For A Fair Michigan on their position in regard to the Democratic Party Platform for the last three days. The introduced position of CFM was used to dissuade the committee members from supporting the resolutions. I have not yet received this. I know we are all busy, but to let this one-time opportunity, which was just one final step away from being included, slip by is beyond worrisome. I wish my experiences of the past week could help me believe what I am being told...at this point, I don't feel I can - or should.
After the first Platform Committee meeting, I was told by a Kerry campaign rep. “to keep the faith”. When I quoted Kerry’s recent statements on marriage amendments including “I disagree with the Massachusetts court’s decision”, and regarding Missouri’s passage of their amendment, “I have the same position as President Bush” saying that he would have voted for the amendment. (Again this is not the State Democratic Party’s position – a major difference) and asked him where I would obtain “the faith” to “keep”? He said that was a “good question” and when I asked what his answer was; his response was that he didn’t have one.
I think I have one now…it’s with the people.
I hope for the best and will continue to try to help.

Thank you again for this opportunity,
Chris O'Brien

Although this experience proved to be disappointing and frustrating at times (to say the least) as I mentioned, it did prove to me the amazing goodness and similarities in people. That citizens would not be able to support a candidate for a position and question that candidate’s position on issues is selling us all short and, I believe, compromising the democratic process. (And, the MDP adopting the original resolution would have actually been IN-LINE with John Kerry’s position. He supports the right of the states to choose on this matter and this was a state convention.) I cannot thank the people I have met through the MDP and those volunteers working with the Coalition For A Fair Michigan enough for their support in this matter. I, as well as many others, owe them a great deal and I cannot express my gratitude strongly enough.

This experience has only strengthened my resolve to keep fighting and to be visible.

Contact The Michigan Democratic Party to ask how they are supporting the adopted resolution (printed below) and if there are ways to help:

Michigan Democratic Party
606 Townsend Street
Lansing, MI 48933
Voice: (517) 371-5410
FAX: (517) 371-2056

The Michigan Democratic Party site link: http://www.mi-democrats.com
Link to the 2004 MDP Resolutions:http://www.mi-democrats.com/topics/2004%20State%20Convention%20Resolutions.htm

PRIDE SOURCE article on the MDP convention:

Democrats embrace soft resolve to fight marriage amendment

Keri’s very kind posting on the “Team (Margaret) Cho Blog”

WHEREAS, a proposed state constitutional amendment may appear on the November 2, 2004 general election ballot that would define marriage, civil unions or the legal equivalents for any purpose; and
WHEREAS, the freedom to marry and/or form binding relationships is an important freedom to all people in the State of Michigan; and
WHEREAS, a constitutional definition of “marriage and any similar union for any purpose” will affect every person in Michigan and many relationships between people in Michigan, now and for years to come; and
WHEREAS, amending the State Constitution is a very serious matter which should not be done without careful consideration of the long-term consequences; and
WHEREAS, the proposed constitutional amendment may deny civil unions and/or legal equivalents, and may limit benefits provided to any person by both private and governmental entities; and
WHEREAS, Democrats believe that voters should be as knowledgeable as possible about all of the candidates and proposals on any ballot;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Michigan Democratic Party urges all Democrats to thoroughly and carefully study this proposal before voting on it; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all Democrats are urged to participate in efforts to educate voters about this ballot proposal.

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