Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Obama supports effort to repeal gay marriage ban

President Obama has endorsed a new bill by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, another step in what the president has termed his "evolving" views on same-sex marriage.

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," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. "He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act."
Opponents of same-sex marriage said they were disappointed, but not surprised. The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton, defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples and allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.

"There is zero chance that Congress is going to repeal [the law] anytime soon, so this is primarily political theatrics on President Obama's part," said Maggie Gallagher, chairwoman of the National Organization for Marriage, an advocacy group that opposes gay marriage.

The announcement is one of the president's bolder moves regarding gay marriage. In the past, he has voiced support for civil unions for gay couples, but stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage.

Last year, Obama supported the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Earlier this year, the administration announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, though the administration said it would continue to enforce the law unless it was repealed. But Obama subsequently supported the use of discretion by immigration officials in cases of married same-sex couples in which one spouse is undocumented.

We thank the President for his support of the Respect for Marriage Act. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to see the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act repealed and his Justice Department has taken the historic step of ending its defense of that odious law in court.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," Solmonese said in a statement.

Tomorrow's hearing will be held just days before a gay marriage law in New York takes effect on Sunday. Those marriages will not be recognized by the federal government because of DOMA.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said the exclusions need to end: "The federal government should not be picking and choosing which marriages it will honor and which it will disregard when it comes to the important federal protections that come with marriage, such as Social Security, health coverage, fair tax treatment, and immigration rights. Congress should follow the president's lead and return the federal government to its traditional practice of honoring all lawful marriages equally – without the 'gay exception' of DOMA.

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