October 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Leahy to hold committee vote on DOMA repeal bill

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Blade file photo by Michael Key).

The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday announced he’ll hold a panel vote in November on legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the committee, said in a statement he wants to hold a committee vote on the bill, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, to advance equality for gay Americans.

“The march for equality continues, and now is the time to ensure equality for gay and lesbian Americans who are lawfully married,” said Leahy, a co-sponsor of the bill. “Next month, I will call up the Respect for Marriage Act for debate and a vote in the Judiciary Committee. The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents thousands of American families from being protected by laws that help secure other American families. This is part of the nation’s continuing fight for civil rights for all Americans.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is the lead sponsor of the legislation and introduced the bill in March. In July, President Obama endorsed the bill, although he campaigned in 2008 on repeal of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

In July, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from lawmakers, LGBT advocates, conservatives, and individuals in same-sex marriages on the effects that DOMA has on gay couples seeking protections for their families through marriage.

The bill should have no trouble moving out of committee. All 10 Democrats on the panel co-sponsor the bill, which should give it enough support to move to the Senate floor. The legislation has a total of 29 co-sponsors — all Democrats.

LGBT advocates praised Leahy for moving forward with legislation that would lift the 1996 anti-gay law from the books.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign and a witness at the DOMA hearing, called the markup “an incredible step toward ending federal marriage discrimination that causes real harm to American families.”

“Chairman Leahy and Sen. Feinstein have been leaders in this fight and we applaud them for continuing the momentum against this unjust law,” Solmonese said.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry and another DOMA hearing witness, also said the markup is an important step following the testimony that took place in July.

“Thousands of loving and committed couples have gotten married in New York and other states since the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the Respect for Marriage Act in July, and all of them are now enduring direct harms because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and its double standard,” Wolfson said  “It is time for Congress to repeal DOMA’s discrimination, and we are pleased that Senator Leahy is moving the Respect for Marriage Act forward.”

Rich Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, which has been working to build the number of co-sponsors of the DOMA repeal legislation, also welcomed the news.

“DOMA enshrines second-class citizenship for millions in a first-class nation,” Jacobs said. “We are pleased that at long last the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the bill to end DOMA. We thank Sens. Leahy and Feinstein for leading with conviction on this bill.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), another bill co-sponsor, also commended Leahy for moving forward with the Respect for Marriage Act.

“I applaud Chairman Leahy for taking these steps to end the discrimination that is currently enshrined into U.S. law,” Gillibrand said. “Marriage is the true foundation for strong families. Every loving, committed couple deserves the basic human right to get married, start a family, and have access to all the same rights and privileges that my husband and I enjoy. No politician should stand in the way of this fact.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • The repeal of D.O.M.A. will remove a major block in GLBT Equality. It gives the Conservative leaning U.S. Supreme Court one less validation to deny equality to these United States Citizens. This will be a Red Letter Day for our country and give validity to same sex marriages which they rightfully deserve. My deepest and most sincere gratitude to those of you in Congress working to make this a reality.

  • I applaude all the politicians who are sponsoring this bill. As a federal employee with a partner, I would like the same rights as heterosexuals when it comes to healthcare, retirement, etc. Marriage has always been seen as two people who love, honor and respect each other. It should not matter if they are same sex. “Religious” people use the Bible as a weapon. They chose certain passages and focus on the negative and what they find to be acceptable.God is loving and kind. He never asked anyone to promote bigotry, racism or hatred. He asked that we do unto others as we would want done to us. If everyone followed that one request, the world would be a much safer, happier place.

  • DOMA should not be repealed! The Yes on Prop 8 side won the popular vote! Marriage is between a man and a woman. It is ironic that the hearing is for November 3rd. Could it possibly be the real birthday of the Yes on Prop 8 man? Yet how can he have another birthday when he supposedly died in the month of September. However, the Yes on Prop 8 man was seen live at the 2011 Golden Globes. Could repealing DOMA mean that viewers could lose PBS? Remember about viewers like you!

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