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.
FOR OFFICE AND A RESOLUTION AGAINST PROPOSAL 2:
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:)
marriage is already against the law in Michigan.
Constitutional amendment would permanently ban civil unions
for all unmarried couples.
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
RESOLVED: (A decision or solution to be made)
The county Democratic Party opposes constitutionalized discrimination
against unmarried couples and Michigan families.
PLATFORM COMMITTEE MEETING DISAPPOINTMENT:
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
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
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,
FURTHER DISAPPOINTMENT, OUTRAGE AND FAITH:
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:
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:
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:
we don't support ourselves, how can we expect others to do
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?
we accept a platform that is not truly represented, why should
we not expect compromise on many issue(s)? And then what is
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?
don’t want my (as a gay person) political contribution
to be one of invisibility.
not comfortable with my life and democratic process being
bartered without my approval...called me old (e)-fashioned;)
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
if we end up with Bush and the amendment?
worried about honesty and integrity...old-fashioned once more.
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
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,
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.
The Michigan Democratic Party to ask how they are supporting
the adopted resolution (printed below) and if there are ways
606 Townsend Street
Lansing, MI 48933
Voice: (517) 371-5410
FAX: (517) 371-2056
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
SOURCE article on the MDP convention:
Democrats embrace soft resolve to fight marriage amendment
very kind posting on the “Team
(Margaret) Cho Blog”
THE ADOPTED RESOLUTION WORDING
REGARDING THE BALLOT
PROPOSAL ON DEFINING MARRIAGE
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;
WHEREAS, the freedom to marry and/or form binding relationships
is an important freedom to all people in the State of Michigan;
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
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.