President Barack Obama is throwing his support behind a bill that would repeal the federal government's ban on same-sex marriage.
The president has "long called for a legislative appeal for the so-called Defense of Marriage Act which continues to have a real impact on families," White House spokesman Jay Carney announced Tuesday.
The president is “proud to support” the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, Carney said.
The Obama administration announced in February that it believes the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and would no longer defend it in court.
At the time, Carney said that Obama was still "grappling" with his personal view of gay marriage but has always personally opposed the Defense of Marriage Act as "unnecessary and unfair."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is one of the lead sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act. On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holing a hearing on the new bill, with testimony from same-sex couples.
"I think eyes have opened. More and more people across this land know people who are gay, who want to have a lasting relationship, who look at marriage as an economic agreement as well as an emotional agreement," said Feinstein, one of 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.
The hearing will give lawmakers the chance to hear firsthand from married, same-sex couples who are ineligible for the many federal benefits that accrue to married, heterosexual couples. For example, gay couples who get married in New York, Iowa or any other state that recognizes same-sex marriage cannot file joint federal income taxes and claim certain deductions. Nor can they receive spousal benefits under Social Security or take unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons.
Feinstein's legislation has 27 co-sponsors, but not a single Republican. With the GOP in control of the House, she understands the political realities of repealing the bill anytime soon.
"If we don't succeed this session, we will try again next session," she said. "Believe me, we will continue this effort until the battle is won."
Feinstein spoke at the National Press Club on Tuesday along with three same-sex couples. The couples spoke about the disadvantages they experience because of the Defense of Marriage Act. For example, Beth Coderre and Beth Vorro of Rhode Island have to purchase individual health insurance instead of as a family, costing them thousands of dollars extra each year.
""I think, as Rosa Parks might say, it's time to get up from the back of the bus and assume our seats among the rest of our fellow human beings," Coderre said.
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