Obama, in stand for gay rights, calls for repeal of DOMA
In nod to gay rights, Obama backs repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), which defines marriage as between one man and one woman and withholds federal benefits from gay married couples.
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He added: “We should not abandon what Congress wisely did … to appease a very small group of activists.”Skip to next paragraph
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Earlier Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California pledged to fight to the end for DOMA’s repeal and to extend full federal benefits to married couples nationwide regardless of their sexual orientation.
“This is not a cause we are going to drop. We are not fainthearts,” she said during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. “If we don’t succeed this session, we will try again next session.”
Senator Feinstein, a sponsor of the repeal effort, said the proposed law does not force individual states to recognize gay marriage. It would require only the federal government to treat same-sex married couples on equal terms with opposite-sex married couples in federal programs and benefits.
The Respect for Marriage Act would apply solely to federal benefits and federal employees. Individual states would still be free to ban gay marriage and restrict state benefits to heterosexual married couples, the senator said.
Forty-one states ban same-sex marriage.
The DOMA repeal bill faces an uphill battle. Currently, 29 senators, including Feinstein, support the measure. Supporters include all 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In 1996, when Congress passed DOMA, 14 senators voted against the law. The federal marriage law defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The restriction is applied for purposes of federal benefits such as Social Security, tax filing status, and inheritance taxes. It also applies to the employment benefits of all federal workers.
Rick Jacobs, chairman of the gay rights group Courage Campaign, said the effort has made “huge progress,” though he declined to predict when the repeal law might pass. “There is a sea change occurring,” he said.
Also speaking at the National Press Club were three gay couples who described their struggles under the federal marriage law.
Beth Vorro and Beth Coderre have been together for 26 years. They live in Rhode Island and were married in 2004 in Massachusetts. Ms. Vorro is a lawyer for the federal government, and Ms. Coderre is a psychotherapist in private practice.