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Sen. Chris Coons

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In Repealing DOMA, Progress Is a Great Victory

Posted: 11/10/2011 10:07 am

As the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up the Respect for Marriage Act today, we mark a major milestone on the path to equality for all American families. And while the Respect for Marriage Act may not become law during this Congress, take a moment to think about how far we've come in the 15 years since the Senate passed the Defense of Marriage Act.

It speaks volumes that 11 senators who voted for DOMA in 1996 now proudly count themselves as cosponsors of its repeal.

Progress is a great victory here, and equality advocates have a lot to be proud of today.

We're just not quite there yet on the Respect for Marriage Act. Even if we could break a Republican filibuster in the Senate, the bill certainly would not survive the House of Representatives.

That's not a reason to be sad today -- it's a reason to redouble our efforts to show that the love and commitment shared by same-sex couples is of equal value as that shared by heterosexual couples.

This is a different country than it was in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, and momentum is very much on our side.

When Americans were polled on marriage equality this spring, it showed for the first time that more people favor marriage equality than oppose it.

When Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) signed on as a cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act last month, he became the 30th cosponsor of Senator Dianne Feinstein's DOMA repeal bill.

When the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell was finally implemented in September, it capped an extraordinary 18-year effort.

When 13 U.S. senators -- myself among them -- came together this spring to record an "It Gets Better" video urging bullied teens not to give up, they pledged to work tirelessly for equality.

There is no question that we'll get there eventually. DOMA will be repealed. And when it is, I predict it will be by a bipartisan majority in both Houses of Congress. But DOMA is merely a symptom of the problem each of us who advocates for equality is trying to fix. We're not just pursuing marriage equality -- we're pursuing equality.

We must protect equality in our schools and pass the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

We must protect equality in our workplaces and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

We must protect equality in our families and pass the Uniting American Families Act.

Genuine equality is the cause to which we aspire, and to achieve it, we must focus not just on persuading our lawmakers, but persuading our neighbors. Tellingly, according to recent polling, the trait most predictive of whether a person is a supporter of same-sex marriage is whether that person has talked to a gay or lesbian person about same-sex marriage.

For those Americans who do not yet support equality, we must show them that the love same-sex parents have for their children is no less devoted than the love opposite-sex parents have for their kids. We must show them that families headed by same-sex couples do not have a negative impact on other families. In fact, they face the same challenges as every parent: arranging carpools, parent-teacher conferences, and getting their kids to eat their vegetables.

We will find our victories in each American who one day accepts that they have nothing to be afraid of from the equality movement, and that accepting people as they are is simply easier than objecting to them over whom they love.

We need to continue working to move LGBT equality into the mainstream, and we can't do that by demonizing those who disagree with us. If we're to have any hope of eradicating discrimination from our laws, it's going to take persuading the millions of Americans who just aren't quite sure yet.

The victory we celebrate today is one we should all cherish. Today we made progress, and for that, we should be proud.

 

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