For the first time, the bill to repeal the Respect for Marriage Act, which repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), has a Republican co-sponsor: Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman  and denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages, as well as the legal benefits attached to marriage, including Social Security survivors’ benefits, family and medical leave, and immigration rights.

Representative Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, stated, “I voted against the constitutional amendment defining marriage [in 2006] so I’m pleased to cosponsor the repeal of DOMA and work with my colleagues on marriage equality.” Ros-Lehtinen also voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy that forced lesbian, gay, and bisexual service people to keep their sexual orientation a secret or face possible expulsion from the military.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, indicated her support for Ros-Lehtinen, saying, Ros-Lehtinen’s “support for this important bill confirms that equal respect for all marriages is a bipartisan, mainstream value. Working with Representatives Ros-Lehtinen and Nadler, and the Respect for Marriage Act’s 124 co-sponsors, Freedom to Marry will continue to make the case to Republican and Democratic members of Congress that it’s time to return the federal government to its proper role of honoring all marriages legal in the states—without a gay exception.”

Freedom to Marry Statement 9/23/11; Advocate.com 9/23/11

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