Testimony before Democratic National Committee Platform Drafting Committee Minneapolis, Minnesota July 28, 2012 Aaron Zellhoefer Good

morning Mr. Chairman, Governor Strickland. Greetings, Members of the DNC Platform Drafting Committee and fellow Democrats. My name is Aaron Zellhoefer and I am speaking on behalf of the National Stonewall Democrats, the national voice of LGBT Democrats, the largest LGBT organization working with the Democratic Party and working to elect Democrats across the country. I bring greetings from our Executive Director, Jerame Davis, our board, and local affiliates, LGBT Democratic clubs and caucuses from every state. As a point of personal privilege, I would like to also take this opportunity to congratulate National Stonewall Democrats founder Congressman Barney Frank on his recent marriage to his long-time partner, Jim Ready. The entire Stonewall Democrats family wishes you both the happiness and fulfillment you both deserve. We are here today to advocate for the passage of a plank that speaks specifically to full marriage equality in the national Democratic Party's platform. This is the Time Some may think that this is a leap for our Party, that the Party is not ready, or that it may be politically unwise to do this now. We say that as LGBT individuals, we are ready for marriage, and over 70% of Democrats – including President Obama - now agree. Change never comes easily, absent risk, nor when it is most convenient. Please also consider that failure to act at this moment in history may be, at best, a lost opportunity, at worst, a serious political error. The strong step on behalf of civil rights that our party took in its platform in 1948 (at the urging and leadership of Minnesota’s own Hubert H. Humphrey) was a strong statement of the ideals that our Party stands for. Just as importantly, it forged a national Democratic coalition that serves us well to this day.


President Obama made history by becoming the first sitting President of the United States of America to be outspoken in support of the freedom to marry. His leadership for our Party and our nation has forever changed the dynamic of this conversation and has created the opportunity to once again stand on the right side of history and to strengthen our diverse national coalition. Young people today, of all stripes and persuasions, are searching for the political party they’ll call home. Let’s make sure we’re speaking to their ideals of inclusion, freedom and diversity. Upholding Marriage Some think that we as LGBT individuals want to change the definition of the word marriage. To the contrary, we are seeking to join marriage, not change it – to affirm the ideals of strong families that are built on love, commitment, responsibility – supported by friends, family and the larger community. When women were finally afforded the right to vote, did we have to change the word, “vote”? When our schools were desegregated, did we redefine, “school” or “education”? When we allowed openly gay people to join the army, did we have to change the word, "army?" The freedom to marry the person you love builds families, strengthens the institution of marriage, and moves us one step closer to realizing full equality for all Americans. State Battles this Year In Minnesota we will be voting this November on whether we should change our state constitution to permanently limit the freedom to marry. Your leadership on supporting marriage equality right now, this year, will send a strong message and will be a huge boost in our efforts to not be 31st state to have changed their state constitution to limit marriage to only opposite sex couples. Rather, we could become the first state to vote no and reject one of these hurtful and harmful amendments. Three other states, Washington, Maine and Maryland, are also facing ballot measures in defense of the freedom to marry. Let’s all say together, “The politics of division stop here and stop now. This Party – our Party – will not stand for it.” Love – and Practicality I love the idea of marriage equality for just that reason...Love. To be sure there are numerous practical matters, provisions in our laws that allow us to care for and protect our families – to carry out the activities of life with some measure of dignity and confidence. In the state of Minnesota alone, there are at least 515 laws to which committed LGBT couples have no access. An examination conducted by the GAO in the aftermath of the passage of DOMA revealed over 1,100 federal rights and protections from which gay couples are barred. These range from areas that affect our lives as fundamental and far ranging as end of life issues, health care, health crises, credit, taxes, inheritance, legal relationships, public services, raising children, property ownership, and so on.


Dreams and Aspirations On April 20th of this year, I celebrated my 10th anniversary with the man I love, my partner Kevin. The next day, I was elected and given the honor to represent Minnesota as a national delegate to the Democratic National Convention this September in Charlotte. To say the least, it was an exciting and momentous weekend. As I was running to be a national delegate I promised to work hard to see our Party pass a plank in our platform to include marriage equality. It is important for me to tell you how much this means to me on a personal level. My brother Adam is getting married to the woman he loves in September. It is very exciting and heartwarming to watch him planning for that day, but I’ll confess that I'm also a little envious. I can't wait for the day that I can have the same opportunity. I can't wait until the day that I'm able to get down on one knee, and not say, “Will you civil union me?” or “Will you domestic partnership me?” Rather I can't wait until the day, where I'm able to go out for a romantic dinner, followed by a walk by one of Minneapolis’ beautiful lakes, with the stars twinkling above. I’m guessing that I will have butterflies in my stomach -- that exhilarating feeling so hard to describe, and be able to get down on one knee and ask, “will you marry me?” – with the full knowledge of what that means – that we’ll be actually getting married in every sense of what that word means. I can't wait to call my mom and dad and tell them the good legal news. I can't wait to call my brother and ask him to be my best man. I can't wait to call my best friend Brian and tell him the good news. And I can't wait for that special day that we all dream about for years. With all of our family and friends, Kevin and I will able to say, “I do,” to marriage. Today, I ask you to say, “I do.” National Stonewall Democrats asks our fellow party members, to say, “I do,” -- not to change marriage, but rather to include LGBT individuals in the full light of equal rights with the understanding that our right and freedom to marry the person we love builds lives of dignity and vitality. I ask you to say, “I do,” to making my dreams – and the dreams of millions of gay and lesbian Americans - become reality. Thank you for your time.


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