Yesterday, President Obama announced his support for the repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 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.
Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said that President Obama was “proud to support the [repeal effort], which would take the DOMA off the books once and for all.” Carney said President Obama supports the appeal in order to “uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct hearings that examine the Respect for Marriage Act , a proposed law that would repeal DOMA and “ensure respect for state regulation of marriage.” The Respect for Marriage Act would only apply to federal benefits and federal employees. The proposed law that is supported by the repeal effort requires federal government to treat same-sex married couples equally in federal programs and benefits as opposite-sex married couples. The legislation would not require states to legalize same-sex marriage or dictate the rights and responsibilities of marriage under state law.
In February , the Obama administration declared DOMA unconstitutional and said that the Justice Department would not defend it against any legal challenges, though the administration would continue to enforce the law until it was repealed. Currently, only 29 senators support the DOMA repeal bill.