House Democrats are mobilizing around a new bill that would overturn the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman and relieved states of recognizing same-sex marriage performed in other states.
Leading the effort is Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), who said that when the law was signed by former President Bill Clinton 13 years ago, same-sex marriage was hypothetical, but today tens of thousands of gay and lesbian couples are legally married under the laws of four states.
The repeal, called the The Respect for Marriage Act, would allow all legally married same-sex couples access to what advocates say are more than 1,000 marital benefits under federal law.
In his remarks at a press conference Tuesday, Nadler said that same-sex couples “have debunked the baseless myth that their marriages would somehow undermine or destroy theinstitution of marriage.”
The true harm of the law, he said, “is the harm it causes same-sex couples and their families.”
“Today we celebrate the first step to overturning the defense of marriage act and sending that ugly law into the history books where it belongs,” said Nadler, who also stressed that both President Barack Obama and Clinton are in support of the Respect for Marriage Act.
Jared Polis (D-Colorado), who co-chairs the LGBT Equality Caucus stated that DOMA was “a law that should of never been on our books” and “an embarrassment for our country.” Polis is the first openly gay man to be elected to Congress as a non-incumbent.
The new bill already has 90 co-sponsors, though House leaders are skeptical that the timing is favorable to the cause. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told the Washington Blade that he saw little hope of the law passing “in the near term,” and recommended the courts as a better option to overturn DOMA.
While Obama has expressed support for repealing the ’96 law, he has yet to make any moves toward doing so.
More at the Washington Blade.