Coalition seeks Sen. Reed’s support of Respect for Marriage Act

Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI

Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI

Ian Donnis reports on a movement by a coalition of organizations supporting marriage equality to get Sen. Jack Reed to sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (which Sen. Reed voted for in 1996 when he was a Congressman).

The online campaign by the four groups will collect signatures from a variety of constituents across Rhode Island. Currently, Rhode Island honors the marriages of same-sex couples married out of state, but those couples are still harmed by federal marriage discrimination under DOMA. The state does not presently allow Rhode Island same-sex couples to marry within the state. Reed is the only member of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation who has yet to cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act. Representative Jim Langevin joined Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative David Cicilline in cosponsoring the bill nearly two weeks ago.

“As a distinguished military veteran and West Point graduate, we hope that Sen. Reed will recognize the importance of full equality for all Americans, particularly in this post ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ world,” said Rick Jacobs, chair and founder of the Courage Campaign, a national grassroots, progressive online organization. “We ask that Reed join his colleague Senator Whitehouse and the majority of American people in calling for the repeal of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”

While Sen. Reed did vote for DOMA, that was 1996, a very different time, since then he has twice voted against a Federal Marriage Amendment. His website includes the following statement on the the Federal Marriage Amendment from 2006:

Senator Jack Reed stated, “I do not think the federal government should usurp the traditional role of the states by amending the Constitution to ban same-sex unions.” An intervention by the federal government to define marriage contradicts centuries of law and custom that allow the states to be the primary authority for family law. “Americans want Congress to work together and deal with pressing issues like finding a viable way to safely bring our troops home from Iraq. We should also be focusing on restoring fiscal discipline, securing our borders, and improving our nation’s health care and education systems. Congress needs to get to work on these issues and address the very real concerns that impact American families every day.”

While the Senator has not stated his support for marriage equality directly, his statement on states rights on the matter seems to indicate that he should be open to repealing DOMA.

MERI has a petition you can fill out on their website to urge the Senator to join the rest of Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation in supporting DOMA’s repeal.

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