Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Leahy for repeal of DOMA

-Leahy2009The Defense of Marriage Act needs to go, or so says Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. In an interview given to Vermont Public Radio’s Ross Sneyd. Sixteen years ago, Senator Leahy voted for DOMA, but he says that today he would not. It is unlikely that Senator Leahy is announcing this in conjunction with his upcoming reelection bid since it is almost unlikely that anyone serious will challenge the man who first entered the Senate in 1975. Vermonters value seniority in Congress over a need to constantly change the Congressional delegation. Given that it is a small state, it is easy to find out if they become corrupt and they usually do not last long after that. Senator Leahy is the only Democrat to serve as Vermont Senator since the Civil War.

The largest reason that Senator Leahy feels that the time has come to repeal DOMA largely has to do with the wave of six states which have now legalized same-sex marriage rights, and that this move by the states largely renders DOMA unnecessary. According to Senator Leahy, he voted for DOMA sixteen years ago because he believed that it would prevent the federal government from imposing a national law forcing recognition of marriage equality on the states. Unfortunately, DOMA had the effect of creating a great deal of discrimination towards gays, lesbians and transpeople, and Senator Leahy believes that is wrong. “Leahy says he’s always believed gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t be discriminated against. He says he’s come to the conclusion that DOMA is discriminatory,” according to Sneyd.

Senator Leahy has stated his opposition to the policy known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as well. However, his opposition to DOMA is unusual since many Senators are unwilling to state their opposition to that law. Getting DOMA repealed through Congress may be a near impossibility given that the number of states which would resist such a move is larger than the number of states which would welcome it. Support for marriage equality is slowly building, and Nate Silver of 538dotcom believes that the tipping point where the majority of states have a majority of people who support marriage equality will come sometimes around the middle of the next decade. There are, of course, a lot of caveats to that prediction, but then, there are with every prediction.

In 2000, Vermont became the first state to legalize civil unions with the intent of providing the same state benefits to same-sex couples; however, it was not as effective as predicted. In 2009, Vermont became the first state to pass marriage equality through the legislature rather than the courts even though Governor Douglas vetoed the bill. It was overridden by the Legislature. It became the first time a Vermont Governor had been overridden since Richard Snelling, and became the first of two veto overrides to hit Governor Douglas.

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