Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy will join California Senator Dianne Feinstein in an effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

After President Obama announced he would no longer defend the Clinton-era law that bans federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples and allows states to ignore such marriages, New York Representative Jerrold Nadler urged Democrats to support his bill that would repeal the law.

The repeal measure was introduced with little fanfare in 2009 in the House, where it rounded up 100 co-sponsors in its first 30 days. It ultimately lost steam when it failed to attract a Senate sponsor.

Feinstein on Thursday announced she would carry the measure in the Senate.

On Friday, Leahy told constituents that he would join the effort.

“As a Vermonter who has been married for 48 years, I believe it is important to encourage and to sanction committed relationships; relationships that encourage us all to give back to our community; and relationships that complete our lives. Vermont led the way by being the first state to adopt a same-sex marriage law through a legislative process. Now that several states that have voted to give full marriage rights to same-sex couples, I believe that the Federal government should not interfere with those laws or discriminate between marriages sanctioned by State law,” Leahy wrote in an email to supporters first published at the website

“The Defense of Marriage Act denies some Vermont families equal treatment, creating a system of second-class citizens. This goes against American values and it must end. In the coming days, I will join with Senator Dianne Feinstein to introduce legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Leahy added that the president's decision had moved the federal government “in the right direction.”

In 1996, Leahy voted in favor of DOMA. But in 2009, he told Vermont Public Radio that he had reversed his position.