by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
President Obama endorses the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA at the federal level, White House spokesperson Jay Carney said on July 19.
Obama has said previously that he opposes DOMA and that it should be repealed, but this is the first time he has given explicit support to a bill to actually do so.
Carney made the announcement at a daily White House press briefing, in response to a question from the LGBT newsmagazine Metro Weekly.
'I can t ell you that the president has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people - our families, friends, and neighbors,' Carney said.
'He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Sen. Feinstein and Congressman Nadler, which would take DOMA off the books once and for all. This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny Gay and Lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.'
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced the bill in the House in 2009, and reintroduced it on March 16 this year. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the Senate version on the same day.
Both of Washington's senators - Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray - signed on as co-sponsors.
'I am very glad that President Obama has come out in support of this legislation to repeal DOMA and provide married same-sex couples with the certainty they deserve,' Murray said in a statement to SGN.
'I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation, and I am going to keep working in the Senate to make sure all married couples are treated equally in the eyes of the federal government.'
'I am encouraged by the growing momentum behind the Respect for Marriage Act, including President Obama's endorsement of our bill this week,' said Cantwell.
'I will continue to oppose unjust legislation, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, that targets specific groups or persons for unfair treatment. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Senate to advance federal law that repeals DOMA and allows the federal government to recognize any state's legal marriages.'
Washington Congressmen Jim McDermott and Jay Inslee are also co-sponsors on the House side.
'I'm glad he did it,' McDermott told SGN in a phone interview. 'It's about time - frankly, it's overdue.'
Three Washington Democrats - Reps. Norm Dix, Rick Larson, and Adam Smith - are not co-sponsors, nor are any Republican Congress members. McDermott said he had not yet spoken with his colleagues about the bill.
Obama's announcement came one day before the first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill.
Committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), also a co-sponsor of the bill, said he joined the same-sex couples legally married in his state in celebrating the president's endorsement.
'I applaud the president's decision to endorse the Respect for Marriage Act, and I join with many Vermont families in celebrating his decision,' Leahy said in a statement.
'Earlier this year, I was proud to join Senator Feinstein and others to introduce the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and restore the rights of all lawfully married couples.'
Nadler, the lead sponsor of the House version of the legislation, said he was 'thrilled' with the White House's announcement on Tuesday.
'The president's unprecedented decision to support this timely legislation sends a powerful message to members of Congress and to the American people that now is the moment to dispense with DOMA and remove this ugly blight from our legal code,' Nadler said in a statement.
'The president has consistently supported repeal of DOMA and, with today's announcement, in advance of tomorrow's landmark Senate hearing, he has taken yet another step to make this a reality.'
LGBT rights activists also hailed the president's statement.
'President Obama did the right thing today by announcing his support of the Respect for Marriage Act,' NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey said in a statement.
'In doing so, he joins the large and growing chorus urging for an end to DOMA, a discriminatory, unjust, and far-reaching law. There is no sound defense of the indefensible DOMA, which singles out and selectively denies fundamental rights to legally married same-sex couples.'
'We thank the president for his support of the Respect for Marriage Act,' HRC President Joe Solmonese said.
'He has repeatedly expressed his desire to see the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act repealed and his Justice Department has taken the historic step of ending its defense of that odious law in court. By supporting this legislation, the president continues to demonstrate his commitment to ending federal discrimination against tens of thousands of lawfully married same-sex couples.'
Saying they were 'delighted' by Pres. Obama's announcement, the Courage Campaign added, 'It is rare that a White House endorses a bill that has yet to pass first in either the Senate or the House. President Obama's decision to do so underscores the urgency with which the Defense of Marriage Act must be repealed. His support makes clear to all Americans that the Defense of Marriage Act has no place in our society.'
Although Pres. Obama's support adds weight to the Respect for Marriage Act, the prospects for actually bringing it to the floor of either house of Congress seem slim.
'I suspect we'll not see anything happen in the immediate future,' McDermott told SGN. 'We have such big issues we're dealing with before we can do that.'
'The debt ceiling will probably take us into August. Then the budget - our fiscal year begins October 1,' he continued. 'I'd be surprised if something happens before that.'
In the Senate, where Democrats retain a majority, they would need to attract some Republican support to get the 60 votes that would likely be necessary to bring the measure to the floor for an up or down vote.
In the House, the right wing Republican House leadership would need to consent to committee hearings on the measure, and then to agree to bring it to the floor for a vote.
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