President Barack Obama on Tuesday
endorsed a bill that would repeal a ban on federal agencies from
recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on
Wednesday will hold a first-ever hearing on repeal of the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA), which was approved during the Clinton administration.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein
introduced the Senate version of the Respect for Marriage Act in
March, but the bill was first proposed in 2009 by New York
Representative Jerrold Nadler. Nadler is the measure's sponsor in
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney
announced Obama's endorsement during Tuesday's press briefing.
“The president has long called for
the legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act,”
Carney told reporters. “He is proud to support the Respect for
Joe Solmonese, who as president of the
Human Rights Campaign is scheduled to testify during the Senate
hearing, praised Obama's endorsement.
“We thank the President for his
support of the Respect for Marriage Act. He has repeatedly expressed
his desire to see the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act repealed
and his Justice Department has taken the historic step of ending its
defense of that odious law in court. By supporting this legislation,
the president continues to demonstrate his commitment to ending
federal discrimination against tens of thousands of lawfully married
same-sex couples,” Solmonese said in a statement.
Tomorrow's hearing will be held just
days before a gay marriage law in New York takes effect on Sunday.
Those marriages will not be recognized by the federal government
because of DOMA.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to
Marry, said the exclusions need to end: “The federal government
should not be picking and choosing which marriages it will honor and
which it will disregard when it comes to the important federal
protections that come with marriage, such as Social Security, health
coverage, fair tax treatment, and immigration rights. Congress
should follow the president's lead and return the federal government
to its traditional practice of honoring all lawful marriages equally
– without the 'gay exception' of DOMA.”