Lawmakers Push to Repeal Defense of Marriage Act

By Gorman Gorman

Sep 14, 2009 11:28am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: A group of more than 70 lawmakers tomorrow will launch a push to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that bars the federal government from recognizing gay marriages.

Backers of the measure hope the bill introduction will quicken the pace of repeal efforts in Congress. President Obama has said he supports the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, though the administration has come under fire for moving slowly on this issue and other gay-rights initiatives.

A spokesman for Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., one of the bill's prime co-sponsors, said about 70 Democratic lawmakers have already signed on to the legislation.

Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said gay-rights advocates hope the bill will help build momentum on Capitol Hill and beyond.

"The first step is to have something to rally around," Luna said. "It allows us to go out and build the grass-roots support that members of Congress need."

President Obama opposes same-sex marriage, but has said he wants to repeal DOMA so that federal rights and benefits can be extended to couples whose marriages are recognized in states where gay marriage is legal.

"Unfortunately, my Administration is not authorized by existing Federal law to provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples," the president said in a statement issued in June. "That's why I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. It's discriminatory, it interferes with States' rights, and it's time we overturned it."

The sponsors of the repeal measure are planning a news conference on Capitol Hill tomorrow with two openly gay members of Congress — Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. — in addition to same-sex couples who are being denied federal benefits because of the law, which was signed by former President Bill Clinton 13 years ago this month.UPDATE: One person who won't be at the event tomorrow: Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Frank, the longest-serving openly gay member of Congress, also wants DOMA repealed — but he’s not signing on as a co-sponsor because of a “strategic difference” regarding timing and political feasibility.

"It's not anything that's achievable in the near term," Frank told the Washington Blade last week. "I think getting [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], a repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and full domestic partner benefits for federal employees will take up all of what we can do and maybe more in this Congress."

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