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Group has guide for Democrats on changing gay marriage stance

May 09, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Talking points from the group Third Way outline how Democrats can discuss their views about gay marriage.
Talking points from the group Third Way outline how Democrats can discuss… (Third Way )

President Obama's decision to announce support for same-sex marriage, less than six months from the general election, guarantees that other Democratic candidates will be put on the spot to explain their views, if they have not already.

Many of the party's more liberal members have stated their support. But for centrist Democrats, and those running in more conservative districts, any shift would probably be a political risk.

Even before Obama's announcement, a centrist Democratic group offered guidance on how others in the party could navigate the tricky terrain.

A document from the group Third Way, bluntly titled "How to Change Your Public Position on Gay Marriage," notes at the start that the nation is "nearing a tipping point on the issue."

It offers three rules to guide candidates. The first, that "the journey is as important as the destination," encourages candidates to tell "a sincere story about how your perceptions have changed," and to discuss experiences that influenced a decision.

"The truth is this journey is occurring among countless Americans every year. ... An honest and genuine journey story cannot only help a new marriage supporter in the public eye explain his or her change in view but can also help bring others along."

The second point is to emphasize the idea of marriage as a commitment, and not to just discuss it in the context of rights. It pointed to polling that showed a majority of Americans were "uncomfortable" with the idea that gay couples might only want to be married for the rights and benefits that come with it.

Lastly, the document warns: "Don't inadvertently belittle others who have not evolved as quickly."

"It behooves all of us to allow some space for those whose views are changing at a slightly slower pace, and to acknowledge that many who currently oppose allowing gay couples to marry are not bigots -- in fact, they may soon become supporters."

Third Way's talking points also suggest avoiding terms like "gay marriage" or "same-sex marriage" altogether, since using them "can reinforce the notion that gay couples are seeking a different kind of marriage." Better to say, "marriage for gay couples" or "the freedom to marry."

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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