November 16, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
HRC denies NOM’s claim on DOMA repeal in defense bill

The Human Rights Campaign is disputing an assertion by an anti-gay group that Senate Democrats plan on amending major defense budget legislation with a measure to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

In an action alert e-mail sent to followers on Wednesday, the National Organization for Marriage warns opponents of same-sex marriage that Senate Democratic leadership intends to alter the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization on the floor to include language that would repeal DOMA.

“Reports out of Washington are now indicating that — just a week after forcing a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote —Senator [Dianne] Feinstein, Senate Judiciary Chair Pat[rick] Leahy (D-VT) and Majority Leader Harry Reid may now attach the DOMA repeal bill to the 2012 Defense Authorization bill, a bill that must be passed in order to fund our servicemen and women through the next year,” the email states.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved legislation to repeal DOMA. All 10 Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the bill, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, while all 8 Republicans voted against it. But no plans were announced to bring the legislation to the floor.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization has no knowledge of any intention to amend the defense bill with DOMA repeal. The largest LGBT organization, HRC is responsible for lobbying on Capitol Hill and would likely be looped in on any such plans.

Sainz said the mailing is a “red herring” and an attempt to trick NOM’s supporters into thinking the organization is working on something after suffering a series of defeats.

Among the recent failures, Sainz said, is the legalization of marriage equality in New York and high-level court decisions against NOM on the non-disclosure of their donors.

“Their members and their donors are, obviously, upset at their very poor performance,” Sainz said. “NOM needs to give them a red herring that equals hope or shows that they are working on something no matter how big of a lie it is. They’re trying to raise money with this is what they’re trying to do. They are trying to give the sense that something is going on when this is not something that is in the works.”

A spokesperson for NOM didn’t respond on short notice to the Washington Blade’s request to provide additional information on the mailing. Reid’s office also didn’t immediately respond.

Brian Weiss, a Feinstein spokesperson, said the NOM email is “not true.”

Passing DOMA repeal in any event on the Senate floor would difficult. In addition to Feinstein, the bill has support from only 30 co-sponsors — far short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

The assertion from NOM comes on the same day the Senate Armed Services Committee completed for a second time its markup of the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill. The panel unanimously reported out legislation that differs from the previous version by making an additional $21 billion in cuts from the defense budget and addressing issues related to terrorist detainees.

The defense bill, as it previously did after the earlier markup, contains a provision that would repeal the sodomy ban in the U.S. military in addition to leaving out the language found in the House bill reaffirming DOMA and barring military bases and chaplains from being involved in same-sex weddings, according to HRC.

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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