Lawmakers on Thursday put off a much-anticipated debate on a bill to repeal the law that forbids recognition of gay marriage at the federal level.
Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the committee to “hold over” the Respect for Marriage Act to allow for more study, as is the committee’s tradition for new bills.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, agreed to the delay, and suggested that the bill to repeal the 15-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) be brought up again Nov. 10.
Mr. Leahy and other Democrats used Thursday’s session to express their convictions that DOMA would soon be repealed. The law, which defines marriage in federal law as the union of one man and one woman and gives states the right not to recognize out-of-state gay unions, is the subject of numerous lawsuits as well as Democrat-led repeal efforts in Congress.
“When I voted for DOMA in 1996, I believed it was a way to allow states to maintain their independence and define marriage as each state saw fit,” Mr. Leahy told Thursday’s committee meeting. “But much has happened since DOMA’s passage to show us why it must now be repealed,” he said. He noted that his own state initiated civil unions for gays and is now a gay-marriage state.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and lead sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, said she was one of 14 members of Congress who voted against DOMA in 1996, and she welcomed the chance to overturn it.
“I believe the time has come” to eliminate the discriminatory law, she said.
“It will happen, it will happen,” added Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.