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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has come out in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, proposed in the Senate.
Press Secretary Jay Carney said today during a White House news conference that the President has thrown his support to the bill, which will be the subject of a historic hearing on Wednesday morning in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, will be among those who will be testifying in favor of the bill.
“We thank the President for his support of the Respect for Marriage Act. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to see the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act repealed and his Justice Department has taken the historic step of ending its defense of that odious law in court," Solmonese said.
"By supporting this legislation, the President continues to demonstrate his commitment to ending federal discrimination against tens of thousands of lawfully married same-sex couples.”
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, applauded the President for continuing to support the effort to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“Freedom to Marry applauds President Obama's strong endorsement of the Respect for Marriage Act and the repeal of so-called ‘DOMA.’ The federal government should not be picking and choosing which marriages it will honor and which it will disregard when it comes to the important federal protections that come with marriage, such as Social Security, health coverage, fair tax treatment, and immigration rights," Wolfson said.
"Congress should follow the President's lead and return the federal government to its traditional practice of honoring all lawful marriages equally – without the 'gay exception' of DOMA,” he said.
Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, was pleased by the news.
"We are delighted that today, on the eve of a historic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, President Obama endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act. It is rare that a White House endorses a bill that has yet to pass first in either the Senate or the House. President Obama’s decision to do so underscores the urgency with which the Defense of Marriage Act must be repealed. His support makes clear to all Americans that the Defense of Marriage Act has no place in our society," Jacobs said.
"Earlier this month, over 25,000 Courage Campaign members signed a letter asking the President to support this legislation. At a White House reception on June 29, the President indicated to me that he would endorse the bill. His exact words to me were, 'I support repeal of DOMA. You know where I stand.'”
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) also applauded President Obama for announcing his support of the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation to provide married same-sex couples the same federal benefits as married heterosexual couples.
Kerry, who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, was an original co-sponsor of the legislation to repeal key provisions of DOMA.
“Today’s announcement from the White House is a historic signal that momentum is growing to end the era of DOMA,” Kerry said. “Last year we finally repealed 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,' ending an era that one day will seem as antiquated as the days before President Truman desegregated the military. When we pass the Respect for Marriage Act, so too will the era of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act seem anachronistic in a country where we don’t believe there should be any second-class citizens.
“It is still difficult to believe that DOMA passed the Senate 85 to 14 in 1996. I’m proud that I voted against it then, and determined now to end the discrimination it enshrined in our laws. The Respect for Marriage Act provides long-awaited federal protection and benefits to married gay and lesbian couples. It would end DOMA’s tragic discrimination that for three years left a married Massachusetts couple separated by the immigration system. It took my intervention to reunite them; thousands just like them are still waiting for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act to provide them the basic rights they deserve. Today, President Obama has made it clear his Administration will continue to lead as no Administration has done before in the effort to end discrimination against gay Americans. This is very significant news,” Kerry said.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the President took the right path.
“President Obama did the right thing today by announcing his support of the Respect for Marriage Act. In doing so, he joins the large and growing chorus urging for an end to DOMA, a discriminatory, unjust and far-reaching law," Carey said.
"There is no sound defense of the indefensible DOMA, which singles out and selectively denies fundamental rights to legally married same-sex couples. We thank the president for his support on the eve of the historic congressional hearing to repeal DOMA. We thank him and the many House and Senate members who recognize that DOMA has no place on the books and support its full, swift repeal. DOMA has only served to belittle our country’s deeply held values of freedom and fairness. It has only served to hurt families, not help. This must end now.”