Nov. 3 set for DOMA repeal vote in committee

Patrick Leahy

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will debate and vote on a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on Wednesday, November 3.

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced the scheduling Tuesday, October 25.

The Committee will also vote on whether to recommend advancing the nomination of openly gay attorney Michael Fitzgerald of California to serve on the federal district court bench in Los Angeles.

The DOMA repeal bill is known as the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598). It was introduced in March by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and has 29 co-sponsors. As Leahy’s press release points out, all 10 Democrats on the 18-member Committee support the legislation, virtually ensuring its passage November 3. But the debate in the Committee will provide a preview of how the full Senate debate is likely to go, should the bill reach the floor.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Committee, mounted opposition to the bill during last July’s hearing.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said in July that President Obama “is proud to support” the bill.

Among the 30 supporters in the Senate, 29 are Democrats, one is an Independent.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the companion repeal measure in the House in March, as well as the original version of the legislation in 2009. When Nadler introduced the bill in 2009, openly gay Rep. Barney Frank and the Democratic House leadership did not co-sponsor it, saying it had no chance of passage. This year, HR 116 has 128 co-sponsors, including all four openly gay representatives.

But there is little expectation of a hearing on the House bill, which is chaired by Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas. Smith has spoken against the Department of Justice’s position that DOMA is unconstitutional and should not be defended in federal courts.

The debate can be viewed live on the Committee’s website, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

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