Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is the
fifth senator to publicly flip on the issue of gay marriage this
Leahy, a Democrat, is the current
chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and the fourth
most senior U.S. senator.
In an interview with Vermont Public
Radio Monday, Leahy reversed his position on the Defense of Marriage
Act (DOMA), the 1996 federal gay marriage ban.
“Well, I think now that you have
states that are voting for and having same-sex marriages – Vermont
has, Massachusetts has, New Hampshire, others, Connecticut – the
Defense of Marriage Act is unnecessary, should be repealed,” Leahy
Gay rights groups have always counted
on Leahy as a strong ally, but like many other Democrats he did vote
“If I was voting – if this matter
was coming the first time, I'd vote differently than I did then,”
Leahy added. “Because I think the states are now ahead of the
Congress on this. I was concerned at the time I voted for it that we
may be facing the possibility of having a national law that would
override states and would not give Vermont to do what it want or
California the freedom to do just the opposite of Vermont.”
Leahy is the fifth U.S. senator to
publicly endorse gay marriage this year.
Last month, Connecticut
Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat, endorsed gay marriage in a
Senate blog post. “I am also proud to now count myself among the
many elected officials, advocates, and ordinary citizens who support
full marriage equality for same-sex couples,” Dodd said.
In January, Kirsten
E. Gillibrand, the upstate New York congresswoman chosen by
Governor David Paterson to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton, said “I will advocate for marriage
equality” in her acceptance speech to the post.
New York Senator
Charles Schumer told the New York Daily News in
March that “equality is something that has always been a
hallmark of American,” when asked to verify a press release by
Empire State Pride Agenda, a group that lobbies for gay marriage in
New York, that claimed the senator had reversed course on gay
And two months later, after the Iowa
Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, Iowa Senator
Tom Harkin also made an about-face. Speaking on the PBS program
Iowa Press, Harkin said he would vote against a ban on gay
marriage in Iowa.
“You know there's always going to be
some who feel that they have to push this issue [gay marriage], and,
for whatever reason, they are going to push it and try to divide
people, but they're on the losing end. They are on the losing end of
history,” Harkin said.
All five senators hail from states
where gay marriage is legal or, where,
as in the case of New York, there is widespread support for
granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.