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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 11, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 19
Obama marriage support statement puts state party head on the spot
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Obama marriage support statement puts state party head on the spot

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

One of the unintended consequences of President Obama's marriage announcement is that it caught state Democratic Party chair Dwight Pelz flatfooted.

Pelz has been known as a loyal supporter of both the president and the LGBT community, but he has also been known for impulsive comments that get him into trouble.

On May 3, Freedom to Marry announced that Pelz was one of 11 state Democratic Party chairs who had signed on to their 'Democrats Say I Do' letter asking the DNC to include a pro-marriage equality plank in its 2012 national platform. Washington Sen. Patty Murray also signed the letter.

The next day, Pelz demanded that his name be removed.

'I was unhappy to see them throw up some press release out there making it like this insurrection within the party,' Pelz told the now-defunct Publicola blog.

'I wasn't happy with them using my name,' he added. 'I didn't realize it was part of a strategy to start a fight within the party and embarrass the president.'

Freedom to Marry, Pelz said, had tricked him into signing. He thought he was being contacted by them as 'one of 500 Democratic National Committee members,' not as a state party chair, he said.

'Frankly, I felt sandbagged.'

Obama's statement on May 9 erased any possibility that he would be 'embarrassed' by a marriage equality plank in the party platform. Now it seemed to be Pelz's turn to be embarrassed, by the fact that he pulled his name from a letter that - as it turned out - reflected exactly what the president wanted.

While Pelz did not reply to SGN's request for comment on this turn of events, state Democratic Party Communications Director Benton Strong did speak with SGN by phone on May 9.

'The reality is, today changed everything,' Strong said. 'The president is the leader of the Democratic Party.'

Asked if Pelz would have kept his name on the letter if he had known that Obama's announcement was forthcoming, Strong said, 'I don't know the answer to that question.'

'Look, Dwight was never against marriage equality,' Strong added. 'I think what Dwight was saying was he's not trying to create a wedge - to pit the [state party] chairs against the DNC.'

Asked to comment on the controversy, Sen. Murray only reaffirmed her support for the marriage plank, without speaking to the Pelz issue.

'Senator Murray has endorsed marriage equality in Washington state, is pushing to repeal DOMA, and supports including pro-equality language in the Democratic platform,' her spokesperson Eli Zupnick told SGN in an email.

Former Washington Stonewall Democrats president Anita Latch defended Pelz, saying, 'Dwight has been a strong ally.'

'This is a larger issue at the national level about getting [marriage equality] in the platform. We have our own battle in this state and we need to focus on Referendum 74. Let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good,' she added.

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