The White House failed again Tuesday to embrace the likely 2012 Democratic Party platform favoring gay marriage, even as a new national poll showed the stance is overwhelmingly popular with its party.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, a Connecticut judge ruled that a part of the federal marriage law is unconstitutional and a California group asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take its case to uphold a traditional-marriage law.
In a report released Tuesday, the Pew Research Center said 65 percent of Democrats now say they support gay marriage, compared with 40 percent eight years ago. Liberal Democrats were especially pro-gay marriage, with 83 percent supporting such nuptials, said the report, which polled nearly 3,000 adults a few weeks ago.
In comparison, 51 percent of political independents support gay marriage, while only 24 percent of Republicans support such marriages.
The surge of Democratic support for gay marriage should bolster Democratic National Committee (DNC) plans to add legalization of gay marriage nationwide to their party plank, as indicated earlier this week.
But neither the White House nor President Obama's campaign would say whether the president approves of adding support for gay marriage to the party platform. Meanwhile, the DNC — which is under Mr. Obama's control — is taking a victory lap anyway.
In an email to supporters, the DNC is leading a petition drive asking folks to sign their names saying they approve of the gay-marriage plank.
"Add your name today and say you're with Democrats as we fight for the right of every American to marry the person they love," Rep. Barney Frank, a member of the drafting committee and an openly gay member of Congress from Massachusetts, said in the email.
The email doesn't ask for funds. Instead, it is likely a way for Democrats to identify supporters who care particularly about gay marriage as an issue, which lets the party target its future communications.
On Monday, Mr. Frank announced that the platform would include support for gay marriage — the first time a major party has gone that far.
Mr. Obama earlier this year reversed himself and said he now embraces gay marriage, but for the second day in a row, the White House declined to say Tuesday whether he supports adding the plank or whether doing so would hurt Democratic candidates in swing states.
"I think you heard the president discuss his personal views" on this topic, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday. "With regards to the DNC platform — I think that issue is still being worked out and I would refer you to the DNC."
Part of the reason for the White House stance may be the difficulties it could pose with the party's most loyal constituency — black voters.
Blacks oppose gay marriage at far higher rates than white Democrats, as evidenced Tuesday by a group of black pastors who urged Mr. Obama to abandon "this foolishness" of same-sex marriage.
The Rev. William Owens Sr., founder of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, announced a "mandate for marriage" campaign at the National Press Club and urged Mr. Obama to "come to his senses" and "admit he made a mistake" on gay marriage.
Meanwhile, gay-marriage legal battles advanced on both coasts.
On Tuesday, a fifth federal district court judge found a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.
"The Court finds that no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision," said District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Connecticut, referring to a section in DOMA that defines marriage as the union of a man and woman and therefore blocks same-sex couples, such as Joanne Pedersen and Ann Meitzen, from joining each other's federal health care plans or accessing other federal benefits.
Judge Bryant's 104-page opinion "is a very powerful opinion," said Mary L. Bonauto, director of the Civil Rights Project at the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which represents the same-sex couples in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management. The judge took apart the defense argument "point by point, and blows it out of the water," she said.
Former Solicitor General Paul Clement and colleagues are defending DOMA on behalf of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives. Among their arguments are that DOMA is legitimately enacted to defend and nurture the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage in the United States.
In California, former state lawmaker Dennis Hollingsworth, three other individuals and Protectmarriage.com Tuesday petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review Hollingsworth v. Perry, the lawsuit over the 2008 voter-passed Proposition 8. The petitioners are asking the high court to decide if the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment "prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman."
Both a federal court judge and three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have overturned Prop 8, saying it illegally discriminates against same-sex couples.
The Protectmarriage.com petition argues that the U.S. Constitution "leaves the definition of marriage in the hands of the people, to be resolved through the democratic process in each state."
"The Supreme Court has made it very clear that the age-old definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is constitutional as a matter of state public policy," said lead counsel Charles J. Cooper with the Cooper & Kirk law firm in the District. "We are hopeful and confident that the Supreme Court will grant review and ultimately uphold its precedent and the will of the people.
"Prop 8 simply continues what every society has known and practiced: children and society are far better off when traditional marriage is maintained," said Andy Pugno, general counsel for the Prop 8 proponents.
If the high court declines to take the case, however, the previous court rulings overturning Prop 8 will stand, and same-sex marriage, which was legalized a few months before Prop 8 passed, would resume in California.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.
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