This past February, President Obama announced that the White House would no longer support or defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. Due to the constant constitutional challenges to the controversial Act, Republican leaders hired former SG Paul Clement to defend the Act for a sum capped at $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars. The Obama Administration is currently pursuing a repeal to DOMA and seeking to replace it with the Respect for Marriage Act, with Senate debates beginning on November 3rd.
The new bill, which is twenty-two lines and two pages in length, would designate any persons recognized as married in their official state to be recognized under all federal law as well. It would entitle same-sex married couples all federal benefits, granted they were married in state that currently recognize same-sex unions. This is a drastic change from DOMA, which strictly defines marriage as between only a woman and a man. DOMA also granted states and the federal government the right to specifically deny privileges to same-sex couples rightfully married in their officiate states.
As expected, the Obama Administration is attempting to provide equality and end discrimination on sexual orientation in multiple areas. The attempted repeal of DOMA is rightfully capitalizing on the momentum from the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). Is the enactment of an anti-discrimination employment bill, such as the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), feasible before the 2012 presidential elections? Depending on the motion set forth from these negotiations, it may be closer than ever before.