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