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Posted at 03:39 PM ET, 07/19/2011

Leahy hails Obama support for Defense of Marriage Act repeal

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday praised the White House’s announcement that President Obama supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

“I applaud the President’s decision to endorse the Respect for Marriage Act, and I join with many Vermont families in celebrating his decision,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Earlier this year, I was proud to join Senator [Dianne] Feinstein and others to introduce The Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and restore the rights of all lawfully married couples.”

Leahy’s own state of Vermont allows same-sex marriage.

The announcement of Obama’s position on the Respect for Marriage Act comes on the eve of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s first-ever hearing on the measure, S.598, which was sponsored by Feinstein (D-Calif.). Leahy is one of the bill’s 27 Democratic Senate co-sponsors; the House version of the legislation, H.R.1116, has garnered 118 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

The Obama administration in February announced that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, a move that prompted House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to convene a meeting of the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which has the authority to direct the House counsel to intervene on behalf of the chamber.

In April, the House hired former Bush administration solicitor general Paul D. Clement to lead the chamber’s legal defense of DOMA. But Clement’s law firm, King & Spalding, withdrew from the case after coming under fire from gay rights groups. Clement resigned his position with the firm and later joined a smaller one, Bancroft PLLC.

Since then, there has been little movement on the legal defense of DOMA.; Wednesday’s Senate hearing will mark the first time either chamber has considered legislation addressing the issue of same-sex marriage in several months, although in June more than a dozen Democratic senators held an event to release a video for the “It Gets Better” project.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the lead sponsor of the House version of the legislation, said he was “thrilled” with the White House’s announcement on Tuesday.

“The president’s unprecedented decision to support this timely legislation sends a powerful message to members of Congress and to the American people that now is the moment to dispense with DOMA and remove this ugly blight from our legal code,” Nadler said in a statement. “The president has consistently supported repeal of DOMA and, with today’s announcement, in advance of tomorrow’s landmark Senate hearing, he has taken yet another step to make this a reality.”

By  |  03:39 PM ET, 07/19/2011

 
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