EDITOR’S NOTE: Read the Baptist Press story on the Republican platform at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=38607 
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP) — Delegates to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday approved a platform that breaks new ground in supporting gay marriage, says “gay rights are human rights,” and also “strongly and unequivocally” backs legal abortion — including government funding for it.
The 40-page platform addresses several social issues, including abortion, gay marriage and the environment. (See the full platform text on those and other issues below.)
On abortion, the platform supports Roe v. Wade, as the Democratic platform has every presidential election since 1976.
“The President and the Democratic Party believe that women have a right to control their reproductive choices,” it reads. “… The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”
It’s not explicit, but the “ability to pay” reference has long been interpreted by abortion rights groups as supporting tax-funded abortion. Likewise, the language opposing “efforts to weaken” abortion rights has been viewed as opposing any restrictions on it — such as bans on partial-birth abortion or laws that require minors to notify a parent before obtaining an abortion.
The Democratic and Republican platforms have taken opposing stances on abortion ever since the 1973 Roe decision legalized abortion nationwide. The GOP platform was pro-life first in 1976.
The Democratic platform’s language on gay marriage is historic, marking the first time that either major party has supported redefining marriage. The new language already was being discussed among key Democrats even before President Obama announced his support for gay marriage, and it became a near-certainty after his announcement.
“We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples,” the platform states. “We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.”
The platform’s religious freedom language is intended to appease moderates concerned by the party’s new position. But religious liberty groups long have said  they are less worried about what will be forced on pastors if gay marriage is legalized — after all, they say, the U.S. Constitution protects pastors — and more concerned by what will be forced on private businesses and religious organizations, and by what will be taught in public schools. For instance, in New Jersey, where civil unions are legal, a Methodist-owned beachfront property lost part of its tax-exempt status because its leaders denied use of the property to a lesbian couple for a commitment ceremony.
The platform adds, “We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.”
Thirty states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law in 1996, defines marriage as between one man and one woman under federal law. It also gives states the option of not recognizing gay marriages from another state. Gay groups view the law as a major impediment to legalizing gay marriage nationwide.
The platform also declares that “gay rights are human rights” and says the “State Department is funding a program that finances gay rights organizations to combat discrimination, violence, and other abuses” around the world.
On Israel, the platform says Obama and the party “maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”
Following is a sample of the platform on several social issues and other issues:
“The President and the Democratic Party believe that women have a right to control their reproductive choices. Democrats support access to affordable family planning services, and President Obama and Democrats will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers. The Affordable Care Act ensures that women have access to contraception in their health insurance plans, and the President has respected the principle of religious liberty. Democrats support evidence-based and age-appropriate sex education.
“The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.”
“We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference. We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.”
“Democrats are committed to protecting our natural resources while creating jobs, preserving habitats, and ensuring that future generations can enjoy our nation’s outdoor heritage. From investing in clean energy to protecting our air, land, and water, Democrats have made protecting the environment a top priority. Today we are responsibly developing our natural resources to create clean energy jobs here at home while encouraging conservation, reducing energy waste, and protecting the environment.
“President Obama has taken the most significant strides in decades to cut pollution and advance public health — protecting our children and communities from harmful pollution by restoring and advancing safeguards for clean air and water and by working to reduce carbon pollution. Pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury are a threat to human health, and Democrats will continue to stand up to polluters in the interest of environmental and public health.
“We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation — an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.
“President Obama has been a leader on this issue. We have developed historic fuel efficiency standards that will limit greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history, made unprecedented investments in clean energy, and proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants. As we move towards lower carbon emissions, we will continue to support smart, energy efficient manufacturing. Democrats pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging powers. Democrats will continue pursuing efforts to combat climate change at home as well, because reducing our emissions domestically — through regulation and market solutions — is necessary to continue being an international leader on this issue. We understand that global climate change may disproportionately affect the poor, and we are committed to environmental justice.
“We are restoring treasured landscapes like the Great Lakes, the Florida Everglades, and local wilderness areas. We are working with Gulf Coast states to restore the Gulf and hold BP and other responsible parties accountable. Democrats will continue to work with local communities to conserve our publicly owned lands and dramatically expand investments in conserving and restoring forests, grasslands, and wetlands across America for generations to come. We will ensure that our National Parks are protected while expanding opportunities for Americans to visit and experience these national treasures.
“Democrats will continue working to ensure the integrity of the waters Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming, and fishing, by supporting initiatives that restore our rivers, oceans, coasts, and watersheds. We will preserve landscapes and ecosystems and open more lands and waters for hunting, fishing, and recreation. This will bolster local economies and is good for communities today and for generations to come.”
“Too many Americans live without hope for a better future or access to good, family-supporting jobs. Fifteen percent of our fellow citizens live in poverty, and one in five families struggles with food insecurity. Many of these families work but are unable to pay the bills. The economic crisis has hit low income American families particularly hard, but merely restoring our country to where it was before the economic crisis is not enough. We must make ending poverty a national priority.
“When the President took office, we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month. President Obama and Democrats took immediate action to get the economy moving again. By expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and supporting unemployment insurance benefits and food stamps, the Recovery Act kept seven million people out of poverty and reduced poverty for 32 million more in 2010. The Obama administration invested in Promise Neighborhoods in communities across the country — a comprehensive approach to fighting poverty from early learning to college and career. The administration provided grants to financial institutions in urban and rural communities for the purpose of increasing lending for low-income Americans.
“But there is still more work to do. Democrats believe that we must raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation. We will continue to fight for equal pay for equal work, a strong labor movement, and access to a world-class education for every child. We will help lift people with disabilities out of poverty. We understand that poverty disproportionately affects communities of color and we are committed to working with those most affected by poverty. We will continue the improvements in refundable tax credits for low-income families to encourage work and education while lifting families out of poverty. To enhance access and equity in employment, education, and business opportunities, we encourage initiatives to remove barriers to equal opportunity that still exist in America. We will expand the Promise Neighborhoods Program to prepare more students for college.”
“President Obama and the Democratic Party maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security. A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, but also because we share common values. For this reason, despite budgetary constraints, the President has worked with Congress to increase security assistance to Israel every single year since taking office, providing nearly $10 billion in the past three years. The administration has also worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. And we have deepened defense cooperation — including funding the Iron Dome system — to help Israel address its most pressing threats, including the growing danger posed by rockets and missiles emanating from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The President’s consistent support for Israel’s right to defend itself and his steadfast opposition to any attempt to delegitimize Israel on the world stage are further evidence of our enduring commitment to Israel’s security.
“It is precisely because of this commitment that President Obama and the Democratic Party seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians. A just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord, producing two states for two peoples, would contribute to regional stability and help sustain Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state. At the same time, the President has made clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met. President Obama will continue to press Arab states to reach out to Israel. We will continue to support Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, which have been pillars of peace and stability in the region for many years. And even as the President and the Democratic Party continue to encourage all parties to be resolute in the pursuit of peace, we will insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements.”
Read the full platform online at http://assets.dstatic.org/dnc-platform/2012-National-Platform.pdf 
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress ), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp ).