The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday voted to recommend passage of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
The bill is the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598). Thursday’s 10-8 vote along partisan lines had been originally scheduled for November 3 but was postponed a week at the request of Republicans on the committee.
Republican Charles Grassley (Iowa) criticized Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) for putting the bill on the committee’s agenda, saying the committee should, instead, be taking up “bills that can pass” and which address the country’s financial problems. Grassley said S. 598 “lacks the votes to pass the Senate” and that, even if it does pass the Senate, “it will not be taken up in the House,” which is controlled by Republicans.
Grassley repeatedly referred to the measure as the “Restoration of Marriage Act,” instead of Respect for Marriage, and said it would not accomplish “restoration of any rights,” but rather create “new rights that same-sex couples have never had under federal law.”
He also said there is a “universal religious view” that marriage is “about procreation and child-bearing.”
“To me, this debate is about stable families, good environments for raising children, and religious belief,” said Grassley. “It is not about discriminating against anyone. No society has limited marriage to heterosexual couples because of a desire to create second-class families.”
He rebuffed the arguments of many, including the bill’s chief sponsor, California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) (shown at right), that the fight to repeal DOMA is reminiscent of the fight to repeal laws that barred interracial marriages. Quoting Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Grassley said such comparisons can be “deeply offensive” to African Americans.
Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper offered some support for Grassley’s concerns about “priorities” but also spoke about “what marriage means in America today.”
“Today’s hearing was a principled discussion about the meaning of federalism, the priorities of our nation in a challenging time, and what marriage means in America today,” said Cooper.
Feinstein noted, in her remarks Thursday, that a large group of corporations filed a legal brief recently highlighting the ways DOMA burdens them with red tape and requires they treat employees differently if they are gay.
Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman, issued a statement saying, “President Obama applauds today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, which would provide a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. The president has long believed that DOMA is discriminatory and has called for its repeal. We should all work toward taking this law off the books. The federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections afforded to straight couples.”
Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, noted that support for the Respect for Marriage Act has grown to 31 co-sponsors in the Senate and 133 in the House.
“The historic growth in support among lawmakers for repealing DOMA mirrors the growth in public support for the freedom to marry to what is now a solid majority nationwide,” said Wolfson.
Recent polling has begun to show a consistent trend in public opinion supporting the right of same-sex couples to get married. A survey of 1,001 adults nationwide by ABC and the Washington Post in July found 51 percent “think it should be legal for gay and lesbians couples to get married.”
Supporters of the legislation will need 60 votes to overcome will almost certainly be a filibuster of the legislation should Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) bring it to the floor. Politico.com noted that Feinstein acknowledged to reporters after the hearing that the bill does not have those 60 votes and that she has not spoken to Reid about the bill.
– Reported by Lisa Keen