Cynthia Dill, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, told state legislators and citizens today she will work "on Day One" to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Her comments came during a news conference and rally at Portland City Hall to applaud the Democratic Party's recent decision to include marriage equality in its national platform. The rally drew approximately 40 citizens.
"For the first time, a sitting president has declared his support for gay marriage," Dill said, "and for the first time a major political party -- the Democratic Party -- has decided to include marriage equality in its draft national platform. This is significant, this is important and it will have a positive impact on the lives of our children, and for the people of this country going forward."
Dill used the event to showcase the life of NASA astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman -- and the youngest American -- ever to travel in space. Ride died late last month and, in her obituary, the family recognized her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy.
"Because of the laws currently in existence in this country, her committed partner of 27 years will not have the benefits that Sally Ride could have bestowed to a spouse, such as my husband and I (are able to)," Dill said. "These things have to change.
"As a young woman, she had visions of flying in space, and because of the opportunities of this country was able to get degrees in physics and astrophysics from Stanford. She served this country like no other patriot has in the history of space travel, and educated women in science, and yet she was treated differently in the eyes of our laws, and that needs to change."
DOMA is a federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.
"That law discriminates against gay couples," Dill said. "And it's wrong. And we need to change it. And as the next United States senator from Maine, I can assure you: On Day One, I will support the president and work to repeal DOMA. It's something we have to do, and it's something the Democrats will do.
"So don't tell me it doesn't matter which party you belong to," Dill said. "It does. The Democratic Party stands for civil rights."
Dill has been a longtime supporter of marriage equality in Maine, and the statewide civil rights issue will be on the ballot in November.
The unanimous decision by the drafting committee for the Democratic National Convention means marriage equality will be presented as part of the party's 2012 convention platform. The full platform committee will vote, and then the plank will be presented to delegates at the Charlotte, N.C., convention.
"It is important to celebrate the inclusion of this critical piece of civil rights language into the party's national platform," Dill said. "It represents, in stark relief, the core values that separate the Democratic Party from other groups. We, as a national party, believe in civil rights and we fight for civil rights. No qualifiers."
Dill was joined by Dale McCormick, former Maine State Housing Authority director; state Sen. and Democratic National Committeeman Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham; and state Reps. Diane Russell, D-Portland, Ben Chipman, I-Portland, Terry Morrison, D-South Portland, and Peter Stuckey, D-Portland.