A Tuesday press briefing saw confirmation that President Obama supports legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin hearings on a DOMA repeal on Wednesday, the first ever hearings since DOMA was enacted in 1996.
President Obama has of course talked of his support for a DOMA repeal on many occasions prior to this while the administration has also recently started aiding litigants in suits against Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama has also talked openly about his desire to see a legislative repeal of DOMA rather than through court action.
Tuesday was, however, the first instance where the White House has made public comment on specific legislation, the Respect for Marriage Act, designed to repeal the federal ban on gay marriage recognition.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced Obama’s endorsement during Tuesday’s press briefing.
“The president has long called for the legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act,”¯ Carney told reporters. “He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act.”
Wednesday’s hearing will be titled “The Respect for Marriage Act: Assessing the Impact of DOMA on American Families,” and, as the name suggests, will examine the effects of the Defense of Marriage Act on same-sex couples.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a co-sponsor to the Respect for Marriage bill. The Washington Blade recently noted that Leahy has the necessary 10 votes to pass the Respect for Marriage Act out of committee and bring the legislation to the Senate floor. There its future is less certain, and certainly the Act would get a frosty reception in front of the Republican-controlled House should the House version be taken up in the same way.
DOMA forces the federal government to withhold over 1, 138 marriage rights from married same-sex couples: this impacts social security benefits, means gay and lesbian citizens are unable to sponsor their spouse for a green card or citizenship, and also means they can not access family medical leave as well as a whole host of other vital benefits.
It also means that as New York’s gay marriage law comes into force this weekend, the state cannot treat same-sex married couples equally even though lawmakers, in a bipartisan vote, supported such equality.