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.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples,” Mr. Carney said.
The repeal law would mandate that the 1,100 federal rights, privileges, and benefits currently available only to heterosexual married couples must be guaranteed to same-sex married couples as well.
The Obama administration announced in February that the president considered DOMA unconstitutional and that the Justice Department would no longer defend it against legal challenges. House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio stepped into the void and hired counsel to defend the statute. Congressional Republicans have threatened to reduce Justice Department appropriations to pay for the effort.
Despite the president’s action, DOMA continues to enjoy significant support in Congress and among many Americans. “Congress rightly recognized that the lifelong, faithful union of a man and a woman is the fundamental building block of thriving societies,” Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defense Fund, which supports DOMA, said in a statement. “The union between husband and wife benefits society – especially children – in unique and special ways that cannot be duplicated by any other relationship.”
[Editor's note: The original version of the article misspelled Austin Nimocks' last name.]
He added: “We should not abandon what Congress wisely did … to appease a very small group of activists.”
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.