BY Advocate.com Editors
October 05 2009 5:45 PM ET
COMMENTARY: With the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act, gay and lesbian couples moved one step closer to marriage equality in America. The big question: Will that be enough to really effect change in places where gays are still ostracized and treated as second-class citizens?
The bill, introduced in the U.S. House on September 15 by Democratic representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Jared Polis of Colorado, seeks to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. In an interesting twist, Clinton is a major backer of the new bill, saying, "Throughout my life I have opposed discrimination of any kind. When the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, gay couples could not marry anywhere in the United States or the world for that matter. Thirteen years later, the fabric of our country has changed, and so should this policy."
Joining Clinton in the move to repeal DOMA is the bill's original sponsor, former representative Bob Barr, a Republican from Georgia, who was joined by 91 original backers of the bill now seeking for its full repeal.
So if someone like Barr, who introduced DOMA, can step back and realize that the world has changed and that we need to move toward a direction of equality, why is it so difficult for so many around the country to see clearly on this issue?
At almost the same time the Respect for Marriage Act was introduced, Iowa businessman Bob Vander Plaats announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination to unseat incumbent Iowa governor Chet Culver. This will be Vander Plaats's third attempt at that office, and he has been openly critical that his state, under Culver's leadership, has allowed same-sex couples full marriage rights -- following the state supreme court's unanimous April 2009 decision declaring Iowa's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Vander Plaats declared that, if elected, he would issue an executive order to prevent future gay marriages and would put the issue in the hands of Iowa voters and the state's legislature.