At a press event Tuesday, New York Representative Jerrold Nadler introduced a bill that would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton 13 years ago on September 21. The law defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies and allows states to ignore gay marriages performed by other states. Under DOMA legally married gay and lesbian couples cannot access federal benefits, including Social Security and pensions.

The bill goes by the short title of the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009. Surrounded by an army of gay leaders, the nine-term Democratic congressman told reporters that the bill enjoys the support of 90 co-sponsors.

Openly gay legislators Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Colorado Congressman Jared Polis also spoke at the event.

DOMA has been under intense fire since President Obama's Department of Justice defended the law in a California lawsuit that aimed to overturn the statute. That suit has since been dismissed on a technicality, but petitioners have vowed to refile their challenge.

Nevertheless, the perception that Obama was all tongue and no trousers on gay and lesbian rights was damaging to the president who pledged during the campaign he would work to repeal the law.

But Congress' most powerful openly gay representative says he won't back the effort.

Representative Barney Frank, a democrat from Massachusetts, said last week that passage of the bill this year was unlikely.

“It's not anything that's achievable in the near term,” Frank told gay weekly The Washington Blade.

“I think getting [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' and full domestic partner benefits for federal employees will take up all of what we can do and maybe more in this Congress.”

The bill does not repeal DOMA entirely. States would still be allowed to ignore gay marriages performed outside their borders. But the federal government would recognize such marriages, even if the couple's state of residence does not.

“For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where marriage was entered into …,” the bill says.

Frank disagreed with the provision, saying it would “stir up unnecessary opposition.”

“I don't think it's a good idea to rekindle that debate when there's no chance of passage in the near term,” Frank said.