Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Obama Backs Repeal of Defense of Marriage Act

This is a good step forward.

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will support a congressional effort to repeal a federal law that defines marriage as a legal union between a man and woman.

White House spokesman Jay Carney denounced the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), saying the administration will back a bill introduced this year by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to remove the law from the books.

Feinstein’s bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, would “uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples” the same rights as others, according to Carney.

The Senate is scheduled to hold an initial hearing on Feinstein’s proposal on Wednesday.

“The policy was wrong then and it is wrong today, and I believe it should be repealed,” Feinstein said Tuesday morning during remarks at the National Press Club.

Obama’s decision came five months after his administration instructed U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to stop defending DOMA and represents a continuing evolution in Obama’s views on same-sex marriage. In February, Holder said parts of DOMA were unconstitutional because of “classifications based on sexual orientation.”

Lawsuits like Perry v. Schwarzenegger have their role to play, but getting actual legislation passed has a better chance of doing more for marriage equality than a court ruling that always runs the risk of being overturned by the Supreme Court.

And good for the president for getting behind this bill.