Capitol Hill’s most prominent gay politician, Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Barney Frank, has dealt a setback to an effort by several Democratic House members to introduce legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The law, signed by Bill Clinton in 1996, allows states to disregard same-sex marriages contracted in other states and bars federal recognition of those unions.
New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler together with Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., a gay first-term congressman, have announced plans to introduce legislation Tuesday to repeal DOMA.
Since the law was enacted, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and Vermont have recognized same-sex marriages. New Hampshire is widely expected to do the same next year.
However, according to Politico Frank told the Washington Blade repealing DOMA now would be nearly impossible in the near term. He indicated he prefers an incremental approach instead.
"I think getting [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], a repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and full domestic partner benefits for federal employees will take up all of what we can do and maybe more in this Congress," Frank told the Washington Blade.
Frank, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said he believes a lawsuit filed by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders has a far better chance of killing the law.
The congressman expressed concerns about a provision that would allow same-sex couples to take their benefits across state lines because it would galvanize social conservatives against the bill.
"If we had a chance to pass that, it would be a different story, but I don't think it's a good idea to rekindle that debate when there's no chance of passage in the near term," Frank said.
Nadler defends his intentions saying the “dishonest tactics” of the bill’s opponents should not deter the bill’s introduction.
Politico said the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate even if it passes the House despite Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy’s support for the repeal.
Gay-rights advocates, however, say they have the momentum, and the current DOMA repeal effort is the “first mile marker of the marathon."
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