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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 31, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 53
DOMA repeal next, Biden says
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DOMA repeal next, Biden says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

DOMA repeal may be next on the political agenda, according to Vice President Joe Biden.

Speaking to TV host George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, Biden said there is an 'inevitability for a national consensus on Gay marriage.'

'I think the country's evolving. And I think you're going to see, you know, the next effort is probably going to be to deal with so called DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act],' he said.

The interview was broadcast December 24.

Although Biden's comments on DOMA took up only a few minutes of an interview that ranged from the federal budget deficit to the war in Afghanistan, they may reflect high-level talks between the Obama administration and Gay rights activists.

The Obama administration has so far taken an equivocal position on same-sex marriage.

On the one hand, President Obama has said he will seek the repeal of DOMA, a 1996 federal law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages even if they are legal in some U.S. states, but the White House has not pushed the issue.

On the other hand, the president has expressed a personal preference for states to pass same-sex civil unions that convey the legal protections and rights of marriage - a position he reiterated at a press conference on December 22 just after signing DADT repeal into law.

'This is an issue that I'm still wrestling with, others are still wrestling with,' President Obama said.

'I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting Gay or Lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.

'What I know is that, at minimum, a baseline is that there has to be a strong, robust civil union available to all Gay and Lesbian couples.'

'I think that's the right thing to do,' the president added. 'But I recognize that [for same-sex couples] it is not enough, and I think [that] is something that we're going to continue to debate.'

In response, left-leaning Gay rights activists called on President Obama to show political leadership on the issue.

'I appreciate what [Obama] said,' D.C. Gay activist Peter Rosenstein told the Washington Post on December 24. 'But what would be nice would be, rather than waiting for the public to evolve, if he were to lead the country to accept marriage equality.'

'Support for Gay rights is no longer the third rail of political danger that it perhaps once was,' said liberal Gay blogger John Aravosis. 'There's really no excuse for the president's, or any Democratic politician's, reticence on marriage equality.'

A Pew Research Center poll released in October showed 48% of people nationally opposed Gay marriage, while 42% were in favor, compared with 54% opposed and 37% in favor just a year ago.

The Pew poll showed that a majority of self-identified Democrats and people younger than 30 support legalizing same-sex marriage.

But voters 65 and older - a key part of the electorate that swung heavily to Republicans in 2010 - are mostly opposed to the idea.

In an October interview with liberal bloggers, President Obama suggested that he believed public opinion overall was trending in favor of same-sex marriage.

'I think it's pretty clear where the trend lines are going,' he said.

A DOMA repeal bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives in September of 2009, by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

Although the bill has accumulated 108 co-sponsors, it has not had a hearing in any House committee and there is no companion Senate bill.

Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking openly Gay official in D.C., did not support the bill.

Frank said that 'the backbone is not there' in Congress to repeal DOMA.

Both officials suggested DOMA could be overturned more quickly through lawsuits such as Gill v. Office of Personnel Management filed by GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders).

Five states - Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia - currently allow same-sex marriages.

DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing such marriages, however, so that couples who are legally married in those jurisdictions are not eligible for the same federal benefits as opposite-sex married couples.

Besides DOMA repeal, other unfinished LGBT Congressional business includes ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, and the Uniting American Families Act.

When the 112th Congress convenes in January, Republicans will have a solid majority in the House of Representatives, making it unlikely that any of these measures will be passed in the next two years.

The next opportunity for Democrats to regain control of Congress, will be in the 2012 election, when President Obama will also be up for reelection.

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LGBT Washington reflects on 2010
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Bearing witness to history as Obama signs DADT repeal
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Equal Rights Washington looks ahead to 2011
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DOMA repeal next, Biden says
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McGinn orders a review of Gay bars being unfairly scrutinized
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