The White House is supporting legislation to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The controversial law, passed in 1996 by large majorities in both the House and Senate and signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, defines marriage as between one man and one woman. In contrast, a new bill -- the Respect for Marriage Act -- would repeal DOMA and clear the way for gay couples to be federally recognized.
The Obama administration's stance on the reversal bill emerges the evening before the first-ever Senate hearing is scheduled to discuss repealing DOMA. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, among others, is praising the president's support for the gay community. Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force writes:
President Obama did the right thing today by announcing his support of the Respect for Marriage Act. In doing so, he joins the large and growing chorus urging for an end to DOMA, a discriminatory, unjust and far-reaching law. There is no sound defense of the indefensible DOMA, which singles out and selectively denies fundamental rights to legally married same-sex couples...
Press secretary Jay Carney made the announcement Tuesday, a day before the first Senate hearing on a bill by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. ABC's Jake Tapper has more:
“The president has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people --our families, friends and neighbors,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said at today’s press briefing.
“He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act...which would take DOMA off the books once and for all," said Carney. "This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”
President Obama had already announced that he views the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. He also had ordered the Justice Department to stop defending it in court. But, until now, advocates have criticized the administration for not moving swiftly enough on issues that impact the gay community. In fact, in June, The Blaze noted that the president was harshly criticized at the left-wing Netroots Nation conference for his lack of action on both immigration and gay marriage.
While Obama may certainly be genuine in advocating for gays and lesbians, the 2012 campaign season is just heating up. It's not out of the realm of belief to assume that the president is seeking to secure votes from associated electoral cohorts. Recent actions and decisions -- including this most recent development -- show the president working fervently to court the gay vote. This latest move to support overturning DOMA will potentially score the president much-needed political points among left-leaning interest groups.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.