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The Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, gained one large supporter on Tuesday- President Obama. The president has “long called for a legislative appeal for the so-called Defense of Marriage Act which continues to have a real impact on families,” White House spokesman Jay Carney announced Tuesday.
The Obama administration announced in February that it believes the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional and would no longer defend it in court. At that time, Obama stated he was still “grappling” with same-sex marriage but always personally opposed the Defense of Marriage Act as unfair.
“I think eyes have opened. More and more people across this land know people who are gay, who want to have a lasting relationship, who look at marriage as an economic agreement as well as an emotional agreement,” said Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), one of 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act and sponsor of the new bill.
A hearing will be held this week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and allow lawmakers to hear accounts from married same-sex couples. The couples will talk about how they are ineligible for many federal benefits afforded to heterosexual couples. Even gay couples who have married legally in states that recognize the same sex marriage are unable to file joint federal income taxes, receive spousal benefits under Social Security, among other federal advantages.
Feinstein’s legislation has 27 co-sponsors, but not a single Republican. With the GOP in control of the House, she understands the political realities of repealing the bill anytime soon.”If we don’t succeed this session, we will try again next session,” she said. “Believe me, we will continue this effort until the battle is won.”
Feinstein spoke at the National Press Club on Tuesday along with three same-sex couples. The couples spoke about the disadvantages they experience because of the Defense of Marriage Act. For example, Beth Coderre and Beth Vorro of Rhode Island have to purchase individual health insurance instead of as a family, costing them thousands of dollars extra each year.
“I think, as Rosa Parks might say, it’s time to get up from the back of the bus and assume our seats among the rest of our fellow human beings,” Coderre said.