House Dems seek to repeal marriage law

House lawmakers are poised to introduce legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The law, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and prevents same-sex married couples from receiving the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples.

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Reps. Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) -- who is the first openly gay member elected to the House -- plan to introduce a bill this week that would scrap DOMA. Baldwin is also gay.

In the 13 years since the bill was signed into law, four states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont – have recognized same-sex marriages. In 2010, New Hampshire will likewise change its marriage laws to recognize same-sex marriage.

President Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign promised a full repeal of the DOMA.

In June, Obama announced a package of domestic partnership benefits for federal workers. However, the president did not extend full health benefits to same-sex couples, drawing strong criticism from gay leaders.

Defending his position of extending only certain benefits to same-sex couples, Obama said, “Unfortunately, my administration is not authorized by existing federal law to provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples.”

Obama added, “That’s why I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act…It’s discriminatory, it interferes with states’ rights, and it’s time we overturned it.”

The three House lawmakers are scheduled to unveil their bill at a press conference on Tuesday.