New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez on
Sunday announced his support for a bill that would repeal the Defense
of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that bars federal agencies from
recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples, reversing
his original vote in favor of the law.
“Since my vote in favor of the
Defense of Marriage Act 15 years ago … I have reflected deeply and
frequently about this issue,” Menendez wrote in an op-ed appearing
Sunday in the Star-Ledger.
“I have heard and listened to many different views. But for me,
this comes down to an issue of fundamental fairness. For me, this
comes down to the principles I learned as the child of immigrants and
that I cherish as an American: that we believe in equality for all
people under the law.”
“I believe the time has come to
recognize the civil rights of the LGBT community. Fundamentally, I
do not view this as an issue of special rights, but simply one of
equal rights,” he added.
Menendez is the 32nd senator
to sign on to the Respect for
Marriage Act, which is sponsored in the Senate by California
Senator Dianne Feinstein and in the House by New York Rep. Jarred
The proposed legislation cleared a
Senate committee early last month but is not expected to move in the
Marc Solomon, national campaign
director for Freedom to Marry, and Steven Goldstein, chair and CEO of
Garden State Equality, applauded Menendez for his support.
“The so-called Defense of Marriage
Act treats committed gay and lesbian couples as second-class citizens
and denies them a crucial safety net of protections,” Solomon said
in a statement.
“This is a spectacular moment in our
movement to end discrimination in marriage,” Goldstein said. “As
we in New Jersey know well, when Bob Menendez comes on board a cause,
you gain more than a supporter – you gain a passionate civil rights
champion that never stops fighting by your side.”