Obama announces support of bill to end DOMA

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Jim Winstead

The White House announced this week that President Barack Obama was throwing his support behind legislation which would effectively kill the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) would repeal all three sections of DOMA — which federally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman — including section 1, which is the name; section 2, which instructs states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states; and section 3, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing legally performed same-sex marriages.

Change.org quotes White House spokesman Shin Inouye on Obama’s endorsement of the legislation:

“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,” Inouye said. “He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Jerrold Nadler, which would take DOMA off the books once and for all. 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.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney also said the same thing.

The announcement comes on the eve of historic Senate hearings on the bill and could signal Obama’s continuing “evolution” on the issue of marriage equality. Obama said in an interview in December that his opinion on the matter is changing from his 2008 statements that he believes marriage was between a man and a woman, to possibly endorsing marriage equality for LGBT citizens. That move drove activists to demand Obama “evolve already” in protests the day before the New York legislature approved marriage equality — which goes into effect Sunday.

Gay right groups were quick to praise Obama’s endorsement.

Human Right Campaign President Joe Solmonese had this to say in a statement:

“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 He has repeatedly expressed his desire to see the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act repealed and his Justice Department has taken the historic step of ending its defense of that odious law in court.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.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued this statement:

“President Obama did the right thing today by announcing his support of the Respect for Marriage Act. In doing so, he joins the large and growing chorus urging for an end to DOMA, a discriminatory, unjust and far-reaching law. There is no sound defense of the indefensible DOMA, which singles out and selectively denies fundamental rights to legally married same-sex couples. We thank the president for his support on the eve of the historic congressional hearing to repeal DOMA. We thank him and the many House and Senate members who recognize that DOMA has no place on the books and support its full, swift repeal. DOMA has only served to belittle our country’s deeply held values of freedom and fairness. It has only served to hurt families, not help. This must end now.”

And Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry issued this statement:

“Freedom to Marry applauds President Obama’s strong endorsement of the Respect for Marriage Act and the repeal of so-called ‘DOMA.’ 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.”

Wolfson will be testifying Wednesday in support of the legislation.

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