President Obama’s comments in support of same-sex marriage are historic, but what do they mean in pragmatic terms for the movement to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide? ABC News, which published clips of his extended interview with Robin Roberts, also reported that Obama supports states’ rights when it comes to deciding whether or not to legalize gay marriage. He apparently did not comment on the Defense of Marriage Act or proposed legislation to repeal it: the Respect for Marriage Act.
RMA, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the House and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in the Senate, would repeal DOMA, which currently bars the federal government from recognizing state marriages between same-sex couples. Because of DOMA, couples married in states where same-sex marriage is legal do not have access to some 1,100 federal benefits awarded their heterosexual counterparts.
Despite Obama’s show of support, the Respect for Marriage Act has little chance of coming up for a vote under this Congress, according to Sean Eldridge, senior adviser at Freedom to Marry, a national organization advocating for same-sex marriage. “I think everyone realizes that this is a very difficult Congress, that Republicans in the House are unlikely to take it up this cycle.” The bill has been marked up in the Senate but a Republican committee has not acted on it in the House. “If you look at Boehner’s comments and the Republican leadership, they continue to support discrimination against same-sex couples,” Eldridge said.
However, he believes Obama’s statements will “create a lot more momentum behind the bill,” adding that the November election will offer an opportunity to “build a pro-equality Congress with a pro-equality president,” giving the Respect for Marriage Act a fighting chance at passing next year.
And beyond pushing the bill, Freedom to Marry and other organizations will continue to attack DOMA in the courts as well, Eldridge said. As far as Obama’s statements, while Eldridge said his organization hadn’t known ahead of time the president would come out in support of same-sex marriage today, “there have been a lot of meetings, a lot of conversations with senior White House officials, advisors and with the president himself about why this is the right thing to do.”
“I think they’ve listened,” he said.
For more analysis of Obama’s same-sex marriage endorsement, watch “Viewpoint” tonight at 8/7c and stay tuned to catch Sean Eldridge on “The War Room with Jennifer Granholm” at 9/8c.