Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dean urges passage of same-sex marriage bill | | The Burlington Free Press

Dean urges passage of same-sex marriage bill | | The Burlington Free Press

By Joel Banner Baird, Free Press Staff Writer • March 29, 2009

BURLINGTON -- A boisterous crowd cheered former Gov. Howard Dean's support of Freedom to Marry legislation and health care reform Saturday at a Vermont Democratic Party reception at the Hilton Burlington.

Dean's emotional endorsement of both issues headlined his acceptance of the 10 annual David W. Curtis Award.

The event celebrated Dean's tenure as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee -- and his 50-state strategy that is credited for helping return the party to power in Congress, and for President Barack Obama's victory.

Dean urged Vermont party members to press forward in this year's legislative drive to grant marriage rights to all Vermonters, regardless of gender.

"Vote your conscience, not your district," he advised legislators.

"Stand up for doing the right thing; for being a human being," he continued. "Put human rights above politics -- because if you don't, you'll regret it for the rest of your political career."

Conservatives, he said, should note that the first American soldier to "take a bullet" at the onset of the current war in Iraq was a gay man.

The late David W. Curtis, for whom the awards are named, was an openly gay civil rights activist in Vermont, died at age 61 on Aug. 7, 1999, while serving as the chairman of the state's Democratic Party.

In addition to invoking Curtis' legacy, Dean spoke passionately about including public-option statutes in anticipated reforms to health care legislation.

"Without them, the bill will just amount to insurance reform," he said. "Now, that's important, but it's not worth $630 billion. We need to fight for a greater public need."

The crowd cheered Dean's parting words: "I have not gone away, and I am not going away."

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the evening's second keynote speaker, credited Dean with reinvigorating Missouri Democrats in 2008.

In November, she became the state's first elected female U.S. senator.

In 2004, the Democratic Party pulled its campaign out of the state three weeks before election day, demoralizing local organizers, she said.

McCaskill was defeated in her bid for governor that year.

The Missouri senator called for greater political courage in the coming years.

"We need both the courage of our convictions and the courage to compromise," she said. "Sometimes compromise is the only way forward, especially in the United States Senate."

She ridiculed Republican efforts to slow the administration's economic policies.

"They drove the car in the ditch and now they want us to take driving lessons from them," she said. "The nerve."

No comments: