September 8, 2011 at 1:52 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Mikulski to co-sponsor DOMA repeal

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (photo courtesy wikimedia)

The senior U.S. senator from Maryland has agreed to co-sponsor legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act after LGBT rights supporters sent a petition of nearly 3,000 names to her office urging her to support the bill.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) announced via her Facebook page on Thursday that she would become a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which is sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

The status update for her Facebook page reads: “Will co-sponsor bill 2 repeal #DOMA — All Americans entitled 2 equal protection under law & 2 be treated w/dignity & respect. #ItGetsBetter.”

In a statement provided to the Washington Blade via e-mail, Mikulski confirmed she’s a co-sponsor of the legislation.

“I am proud to co-sponsor legislation to repeal key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act,” Mikulski said. “I believe all Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law and all of our citizens deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

She continued, “The Respect for Marriage Act, S.598, will allow couples who have a legal marriage in a state to have the same federal protections as every other married couple. This includes the right to receive spousal benefits under Social Security; to file joint federal tax returns and to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act when a spouse falls seriously ill.”

Mikulski’s support brings the total number of co-sponsors for the Respect for Marriage Act to 30. In July, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the repeal legislation and how DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, burdens gay couples.

Last month, a coalition of LGBT rights groups — Freedom to Marry, the Courage Campaign and Equality Maryland — delivered a petition with names from nearly 3,000 Maryland residents to Mikulski’s office calling on her to support DOMA repeal.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, said the petition drive organized by the groups helped encourage Mikulski to sign on in support.

“We battled wind, rain and fleeing residents on I-95 during a deadly hurricane named Irene just so we could deliver these signatures to Sen. Mikulski’s Baltimore office,” Jacobs said. “And it paid off. We need to keep going and continue working tirelessly until we get to the magic number of 60 votes.”

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, commended Mikuski for what he said was “heeding the call of families across the state.”

“Overturning DOMA’s unfair exclusion from federal protections would make a big difference in the lives of the nearly 17,000 same-sex couples in Maryland who are working hard to take care of each other and their families each and every day while being denied the critical safety-net that only marriage brings,” Wolfson said. “We look forward to working with Sen. Mikulski to grow the numbers of supporters in the Senate so that we can bring an end to marriage discrimination as soon as possible in these tough economic times”

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, the Democratic junior senator from Maryland, was already a co-sponsor of DOMA repeal, and Gov. Martin O’Malley said he’d make the legalization of same-sex marriage part of his legislative package for 2012.

Advocates had said Mikulski’s previous lack of co-sponsorship of the bill was striking because other elected officials in her state have voiced support for same-sex marriage and plans are in motion to legalize marriage rights for gay couples in Maryland next year.

Lisa Polyak, acting board chair for Equality Maryland, said her organization is “tremendously grateful” to Mikulski for joining on as a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act.

“Even more so, we’re tremendously proud that in Maryland, every statewide official — both at the state and federal level — now supports marriage equality for same-sex couples,” Polyak said. “I think they understand that it’s good public policy to treat all families equally and we look forward to the day when the federal law finally reflects that to be true.”

All Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, so the legislation could be reported out of committee as soon as Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) holds a markup on the measure.

NOTE: This article has been updated.

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

  • Great work! Congratulations to everyone involved.
    This just proves again and again how when we work together and keep up the momentum, then we can get this issues resolved.
    You’re going down DOMA!

  • Mulkowki is a ‘Pretend Catholic’. It would be nice if she could ‘pretend’ to belong to some other church because she’s an embarassment to the Catholic church. This pretending will only stop when the American bishops actually take a united, public, outspoken stand against the pretenders.

    • Good for her. One of these days catholics will all stop protecting the church of the endless and worse hidden molestation of children.
      Its ineresting how hard it is eg for gay catholics to leave the church that demonzies them as intrinsicly disordered, not normal and other hatefilled phrases.

      but the world is changing. By the churches own admission, EWTN (cath TV) only about 15% of the people in france actually go to church except very rarely. Same re Spain, eg 13%

      Its one thing to be hopefull and try and force change.

      Unfortunately the church has dug itself a horrible hole re eg the molestation of children all over the world. The sooner all good catholics help fill the hole with cement, the better.

      Keep the vatican and some churches as museums to the horrors the church has created over the centuries , eg the 1000 year dark ages, the ‘christian (catholic crusades against the muslims that murdered tens of millions, of which we were reminded about exactly 10 years ago today.

      the Inquisiiton where good priests, scientists, jews etc were burned at the stake or tossed in boiling oiwl for daring to challenge the church. And of course books were banned – a practice that only ‘ended’ in 1964.

      and the child molestation issues – just google [country name] – catholic church molestation.

      And then there is Hitler, born and baptised catholic – the worst murderer in history has yet to be EXcommunicated by the church that protects life.

      here’s why – a website I stumbled upon

      To make amends for their part in wwII the vatican would have to Excommunicate itself.

  • Let’s celebrate this positive development: Tip generously for good service.

    • if course -Sen Mikulski has been a big supporter of the gay community and a sponsor of the bill that ended DADT.

      lets not let the enemy divide and conquer the community.

      Never forget – tis the catholic church and the Southern Baptists / evangelical christians (for the most part) that are the enemy of humanity.

      If you dig around Wikipedia etc you will find that the southern baptists, a spinoff of the then all but “reofmed dutch church” were the bullwark os slavery , gave us the KKK and segregation.

      Of which hate groups like the FRC, eg the head Tony perkins and his sidekick Peter Spriggs were pals with David Duke in LA – a known kluxer. Spriggs is also a baptist minister except he tries to keep that secret. George Reker, founder of the FRC and head of NARTH (fix the gays) has been recently outed by a 21 year old gay man who through was hired by Reker to ‘carry his baggage’ on a two week trip to Europe.

      Not at all surprising, but the bigger deal is that Reker paid about $15000 for an escort for two weeks – the price per the website .

      BTW heres the list of now TOP, repeat TOP 15 gay haters exposed like minister ted haggart.

      (actually now top 15)

      and anther similar website……. About state senator Dyson – a secretly gay anti gay rights democratic legislator

      And I bet there are others as well. lots of rumors on one leading phobe btw.

  • I should also note that some presbyterian churches are very homophbobic. While the PresbyterianUSA church just recently allowed gay ministers in relationships. Marriage is around the corner for them

    And in Scotland – I think the home of the orig presbyterians – a majority of the people there support same sex marriagel

    Joining virtually every country in .W. Europe, except italy and greece, And in catholic latin america, despite the church, now Argentina, Mexico, columbia (via common law) allow or recognzie gay marriage. Equador, Uruguay and Brazil (most of of it) have civil unions.

    Columbia’s supreme court recently told the legislature they have 2 years to enact equal rights for their gay citizens. Brazils Supreme court this summer voted 10 – o for equal rights for gays re marriage or possibly civil unions.

    The president of Chile just sent a bill to their congress to allow civil unions.

    And of course there is Nepal, Israel, Repub of S.Africa, Candad with gay marriage. Ausralia, NZ with CUs, Austria Hungary, chech repub with CUs

    Finland is changing from CUs to marriage, Denmark is filing in the CU law with full second parent adoption rights re gay adoption.

    the times are changing. Its up to every one – gay and str8 allies – to support the equal rights group of our choice in finishing hte battle. (btw I was on the bd or Equality Maryland in the early days.)

    And if you want a nice place to vacation in the summer, go to Iceland. Wonderful country, wonderfull people. Gay pride in Early August is like a national holliday for gay and str8 famileis alike.

    Half the population of Reykjavik – reportedly 90,000 people – show up for gay pride.
    theri parliment voted in 2009 for gay marriage 49 to 0. And then their premier married her GF 3 days later.

    BTW virtually everyone there speaks excelleng English. Cost me alone about 1700$ for 8 days, staying at a guest house., including air fare from JFK (RIP). About 5 hours from JFk.

    WX early august – mornings in the mid 50s, afternoons near 70, strong sun.

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