Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) on Tuesday again urged his fellow lawmakers to consider a repeal of a 1996 law that defines marriage as union of one man and one woman.
Although Specter more than a decade ago voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed at the time by then-President Bill Clinton, he wrote in an op-ed published at The Huffington Post this morning that "the Act is a relic of a more tradition-bound time and culture."
"Connecticut, Iowa, and Massachusetts have already passed laws recognizing same sex marriage and other states are moving in that direction," Specter explained, noting that laws regulating "personal behavior" rarely work, as prohibition once demonstrated.
"The states are the proper forum to address this divisive social and moral issue, not the Federal Government with a law that attempts to set one national standard for marriage," he added.
Specter's about-face on the federal marriage rule -- previewed in a Twitter post Monday evening -- is an interesting political move. Throughout his 2010 re-election campaign, the senator has fielded considerable heat from both the liberal blogosphere and local Democratic voters, who together charge his record on LGBT issues is less than appealing.
It further does not help that Specter's competitor in the Democratic primary -- Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) -- has been incredibly vocal recently about a repeal of DOMA. Sestak is even the sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act -- a bill, the congressman previously described, that would "require federal recognition of marriages that are valid under the law of the state where performed."
It is unclear whether Specter supports that effort; he made no mention of what, if anything, should replace DOMA at the federal level.
Instead, the senator noted in his op-ed that a quick repeal of DOMA would be "one step among several designed to fully integrate and protect the rights of gays and lesbians in American society." He also urged lawmakers to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, which he originally co-sponsored, and end the country's "Don't ask, don't tell policy," which prohibits gays from openly serving in the military.