October 20, 2011 at 5:40 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Levin agrees to co-sponsor DOMA repeal

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A U.S. senator seen as a leader in the fight for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal has agreed to sign on as a co-sponsor to legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

On Thursday, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) officially signed on as a support of the bill, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, bringing the total of co-sponsors to 31.

The Courage Campaign, a progressive grassroots organization, first announced on its blog, Prop 8 Trial Tracker, that Levin had agreed to co-sponsor the DOMA repeal legislation.

The organization has been building the number of co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, which is sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), by sending petitions to potential supporters in the Senate.

Bryan Thomas, a Levin spokesperson, later confirmed for the Washington Blade that Levin “has indeed co-sponsored the Act.”

Levin’s decision to co-sponsor DOMA repeal comes after he publicly said he supports the measure when asked by the Washington Blade about the bill during a news conference on Sept. 20.

All co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate are Democrats. In the House, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) co-sponsors companion legislation, which is sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

The Michigan Democrat’s decision to co-sponsor the legislation comes less than one week after Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced that he intends to hold a committee vote on the legislation in November. Levin isn’t a member of the panel, but all 10 Democrats who hold membership are already co-sponsors of the bill.

Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was seen early on as a leader in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Last year, Levin backed a committee amendment to include repeal language as part of annual defense budget legislation.

The repeal-inclusive legislation ultimately didn’t make it to the floor, but Levin supported the standalone bill that was introduced later and ultimately was successful.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, said in a statement Levin’s decision to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act is important because of his authority on military issues.

“Carl Levin is in many ways the conscience of the Senate,” Jacobs said. “As a leader in defense and national security issues, Sen. Levin understands that America’s true power comes from its diverse population. That’s why his support for Sen Feinstein’s bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act means so much. American soldiers can now bear arms without hiding that they are gay and lesbian; when they come home, their marriages deserve to be treated equally.”

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

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