Harry Reid Suddenly Supports Marriage, Vote on DOMA Repeal

BY Lucas Grindley

May 11 2012 11:31 AM ET

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Majority Leader Harry Reid says he not only backs marriage equality but also that the Senate might vote on a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act before the election.

Reid followed President's Obama's announcement of support for same-sex marriage with the announcement of his own more nuanced position. Reid said that although he personally believes marriage remains between a man and a woman, the government shouldn't interfere with same-sex couples who want to marry.

“My personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman. But in a civil society, I believe that people should be able to marry whomever they want, and it’s no business of mine if two men or two women want to get married," he said. "The idea that allowing two loving, committed people to marry would have any impact on my life, or on my family’s life, always struck me as absurd."

Reid, who is a Mormon, takes a different interpretation of his religious beliefs than Mitt Romney, who has decided the best course is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex couples from marrying. But Reid doesn't see Romney's view advancing.

“In talking with my children and grandchildren, it has become clear to me they take marriage equality as a given," he said. "I have no doubt that their view will carry the future."

The Salt Lake Tribune points out that Reid nodded yes when asked Thursday whether he would vote to legalize same-sex marriage in his home state of Nevada, and that Reid had previously voted for a constitutional ban there.

Reid, who voted in favor of DOMA in 1996, said on Thursday that if a bill to repeal the legislation gets to the floor of the Senate, "we'll be happy to take a look at it," according to Politico. He called the repeal "an important piece of legislation," but he also predicted Republicans would try to stop repeal from getting a vote.

DOMA protects states where same-sex marriage isn't legal from having to recognize marriages of those residents wed in states where it is legal. So a couple married in New York are no longer considered married if they move to neighboring New Jersey, for example.

DOMA also bars the federal government from recognizing any same-sex couple married in any state, which has a cascade of tax code effects. Reid backed the president on his belief that the states should be free to decide on marriage.

“I handled a fair amount of domestic relations work when I was a practicing lawyer, and it was all governed by state law," he said. " I believe that is the proper place for this issue to be decided as well.”

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