Democrats Push to Repeal Federal Marriage Law

A group of House Democrats introduced legislation Tuesday that would overturn a federal marriage law that denies recognition of gay marriage and gives states the right to refuse recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Same-sex marriages are now legal in six states.

The Respect for Marriage Act, unveiled by Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Jared Polis, D-Colo, has the support of more than 90 lawmakers.

The legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton.

This is the "first step to overturning DOMA," Nadler said, who called the law "irrational and hateful."

"Democracy doesn't always get it right," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who also supports the Respect for Marriage Act. "This should have been corrected a long time ago."

House Democratic leaders will not schedule a floor vote any time soon, but the proposal is evidence of the appetite of activists and their legislative allies — now that Democrats control both Congress and the White House — for going beyond more incremental steps.

"As one of the 67 Members of Congress who originally voted against and questioned the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, I'm hopeful that we can repair some of the damage done by that law," Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said in a written statement.

"This bill is yet another chapter in the nation's ongoing quest to live up to the ideals of equality and freedom embodies in the Constitution," she added. "Fairness, tolerance, and social justice are principles that we must practice as well as preach."

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., an influential and openly gay lawmaker, favors repeal but has not signed on as a co-sponsor of Nadler's bill. Frank believes the legislation would have little chance of passage.

Nadler acknowledged Frank's absence of support for the bill, but said they would move forward without him.

On the other side of the isle, Republican Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, responded to congressional calls for the repeal of DOMA and urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to consider his Marriage Protection Amendment.

“The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law 13 years ago by a Democratic President because lawmakers began to see the assault on traditional marriage," Broun said in a statement.

"Over a decade later, traditional marriage – a principle tenant in our Judeo-Christian values - is under assault more than ever before," he continued. "This is why I was extremely disappointed to see my liberal colleagues introduce legislation today to repeal the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act."