History in the Making: Obama Endorses Respect for Marriage Act to Repeal DOMA
This morning, we held an emotional press conference in a packed media room at the National Press Club with Sen. Feinstein and three couples who commuted to DC to tell their stories. It was just incredible. I’ll have more on that later.
Then, we got word from the White House that President Obama would heed the call of over 25,000 Courage Campaign members (the text of our call to President Obama can be found here) and formally endorse the Respect for Marriage Act. Why is this a big deal? Because the White House rarely, if ever, endorses legislation that hasn’t passed a house of Congress… and this one hasn’t even passed committee yet. It underscores the urgency of this issue, and it also generates huge momentum to our efforts to bring more Senators on board. How many pro-LGBT Senators are going to let President Obama be ahead of them on this?
Full exchange from today’s White House press briefing courtesy of Metro Weekly:
Metro Weekly: The president has said in the past that he opposes the Defense of Marriage Act, but he is yet to endorse the Respect for Marriage Act, which is the specific piece of legislation –
Carney: Senator [Dianne] Feinstein [(D-Calif.)], yeah.
Metro Weekly: — aimed to repeal the bill. Tomorrow, the Senate will hold the first hearing into that bill. Is the administration ready to endorse that bill?
Carney: I can tell you that the President has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people — our families, friends and neighbors. He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Sen. Feinstein and Congressman [Jerrold] Nadler [(D-N.Y.)], which would take DOMA off the books once and for all. This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.
Below is Courage Campaign’s statement.
RICK JACOBS, COURAGE CAMPAIGN CHAIR
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S DECISION TO SUPPORT
REPEAL OF THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT
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.
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.”
This morning, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, called me referring to my conversation with the president to say that today was the day and that Jay Carney would announce the White House’s support for the bill. The members of the Courage Campaign are thrilled.
Courage Campaign is a grassroots, online organization empowering 700,000 people to push for progressive change, including LGBT equality. Since Courage Campaign partnered with Sen. Feinstein to introduce the Respect for Marriage Act on March 16, 2011, its members have targeted Sens. Klobuchar, Kohl, Udall of New Mexico, and Bingaman, asking them to support the Respect for Marriage Act. All four have agreed to do so. Over 54,000 people have joined our ongoing campaign to convince more Senators that the time has come for DOMA to go. Courage Campaign has also launched a network of volunteer field captains (totaling 75 captains in 43 states) who are working at the grassroots level to repeal DOMA.