WASHINGTON -- North Carolina Republicans pushing for a state ban on same-sex marriage may be dismayed to know that their efforts have galvanized opposition from a U.S. congressman from their state.
Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) has decided to fight for federal marriage equality because of the Republican push to ban it in North Carolina. He told the Advocate on Wednesday that he would become a cosponsor of the federal legislation to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman.
Under the federal law, states are allowed to not recognize valid same-sex unions performed in other states. Same-sex couples are also denied federal benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples, such as joint filing of taxes, spousal benefits under Social Security and health and pension benefits.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, will announce the addition of both Miller and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, as cosponsors to the Respect for Marriage Act on Thursday, according to the congressman's spokesman Ilan Kayatsky. On Tuesday, Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) were added as cosponsors.
The number of cosponsors of the House legislation, with the new additions, stands at a record 124 lawmakers, surpassing the 120 reached during the last Congress, when the bill was introduced.
"The federal government should not play a role in restricting marriage. Marriage should be left to states to create and interpret marriage laws. The Respect for Marriage Act would allow the federal government to defer to the states by recognizing their laws and also provide all of the federal rights, benefits, and responsibilities associated with marriage," said Smith, who also was a strong advocate for repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, in a statement to The Huffington Post. "I do not believe same-sex marriage equality is a threat to the institution of marriage. I believe our society is made stronger by more committed and stable relationships, and we should encourage that.”
"For a couple who has been married legally, every state should be required to give full faith and credit," said Miller. "North Carolina would still not be required to perform civil marriage, but it would be required to [recognize] marriages performed in other states."
Next May, North Carolina residents will vote on whether to amend their state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. GOP legislators fast-tracked the legislation and pushed it through the statehouse in just a matter of days.
Same-sex marriage is already prohibited in North Carolina, but that prohibition is not written into the state's constitution.
Miller told the Advocate that he had not previously considered cosponsoring the legislation to repeal DOMA.
On Wednesday, the congressman went on MSNBC and explained that the new North Carolina law could have far-reaching effects.
"North Carolina law already prohibits same-sex marriage, and this would not change the application of the law," he said. "But this amendment goes even further and would prohibit private employers even from providing benefits to same-sex couples. North Carolinians know that goes too far and there is a lot of opposition to that."
President Obama still does not publicly support marriage equality, although he has given his backing to the Respect for Marriage Act.
On the North Carolina amendment, White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Washington Blade that Obama opposes the Republican effort.
"While the President does not weigh in on every single action taken by legislative bodies in our country, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples," he said. "The President believes strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away."
This story has been updated with comment from Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
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