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Changing Their Tune on DOMA


Legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which federally restricts marriage to heterosexual couples, was introduced Tuesday in House of Representatives amid a growing chorus of people who have had a change of heart on the matter.

The man who singed the bill into law, President Bill Clinton, and the man who authored the legislation, Bob Barr, along with seven representatives who voted to pass it in 1996, now support the law's repeal

"When the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, gay couples could not marry anywhere in the United States or the world for that matter," Clinton said in a statement. "Thirteen years later, the fabric of our country has changed, and so should this policy."

Barr, who was a member of the House at the time, joined Clinton, saying, "This legislation would strengthen the principle that each state is free to set the definition of marriage the citizens of that state have adopted."

Congressman Earl Blumenauer posted a candid editorial on Huffington Post that began, "On July 12, 1996, I cast the worst vote of my political career."

DOMA originally passed the House by a vote of 342-67, and at least 98 of the people who gave it the nod are still sitting Congressional members today. Seven of those members switched gears and signed on to the DOMA repeal bill -- the Respect for Marriage Act [H.R. 3567] -- making a total of 92 original cosponsors by day's end: Reps. Rob Andrews (NJ); Earl Blumenauer (OR); Rosa DeLauro (CT); Mike Doyle (PA); Bob Filner (CA); Nita Lowey (NY); Ed Pastor (AZ).

For Blumenauer, the vote was a strategic move, or so he thought at the time.

"I made the political calculation that we might be able to defuse (antigay sentiment) by throwing a bone to the right on DOMA and heading off a constitutional marriage amendment, because people were talking about that," said Blumenauer, who has supported a number of LGBT equality initiatives throughout the years. "I was wrong on several levels -- it didn't stop the right wing, it only encouraged them."

Blumenauer has been in public office since 1993 and estimates he has cast tens of thousands of votes during that time.

"But this is one vote that stands out in my mind," he said. "I would put this at the top of the list of things that if I had to do over again, I would have done it differently."

He regretted the vote within months as he began talking to more and more LGBT people who told him the vote, far from being a political calculation, was a fundamental statement of self worth.

Blumenauer now plans to reach out to those members who helped pass the measure in 1996 but still aren't on board. "This week, I plan on sitting down with a number of them," he said.

By The Advocate's count, he will have at least 36 Democratic and 55 Republican opportunities:

Sanford Bishop (D-AL)
Rick Boucher (D-VA)
Corrine Brown (D-FL)
James Clyburn (D-SC)
Jerry Costello (D-IL)
Elijah Cummings (D-MD)
Norman Dicks (D-WA)
John Dingell (D-MI)
Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Chet Edwards (D-TX)
Bart Gordon (D-TN)
Gene Green (D-TX)
Tim Holden (D-PA)
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
Paul Kanjorski (D-PA)
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Dale Kildee (D-MI)
Sander Levin (D-MI)
Daniel Lipinski (D-IL)
Alan Mollohan (D-WV)
John Murtha (D-PA)
Richard Neal (D-MA)
James Oberstar (D-MN)
David Obey (D-WI)
Solomon Ortiz (D-TX)
Collin Peterson (D-MN)
Earl Pomeroy (D-ND)
Nick Rahall (D-WV)
Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Ike Skelton (D-MO)
John Spratt (D-SC)
Bart Stupak (D-MI)
John Tanner (D-TN)
Gene Taylor (D-MS)
Peter Visclosky (D-IN)

Spencer Bachus (R-AL)
Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)
Joe Barton (R-TX)
Brian Bilbray (R-CA)
John Boehner (R-OH)
Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Dave Camp (R-MI)
Michael Castle (R-DE)
Howard Coble (R-NC)
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
David Dreier (R-CA)
John Duncan Jr. (R-TN)
Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Elton Gallegly (R-CA)
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Ralph Hall (R-TX)
Doc Hastings (R-WA)
Wally Herger (R-CA)
Pete Hoekstra (R-MI)
Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
Bob Inglis (R-SC)
Sam Johnson (R-TX)
Walter Jones (R-NC)
Pete King (R-NY)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Tom Latham (R-IA)
Steven LaTourette (R-OH)
Jerry Lewis (R-CA)
John Linder (R-GA)
Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Frank Lucas (R-OK)
John McHugh (R-NY)
Buck McKeon (R-CA)
John Mica (R-FL)
Sue Myrick (R-NC)
Thomas Petri (R-WI)
George Radanovich (R-CA)
Harold Rogers (R-KY)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Ed Royce (R-CA)
James Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
John Shadegg (R-AZ)
Chris Smith (R-NJ)
Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Mark Souder (R-IN)
Cliff Stearns (R-FL)
Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
Todd Tiahrt (R-KS)
Fred Upton (R-MI)
Zach Wamp (R-TN)
Ed Whitfield (R-KY)
Frank Wolf (R-VA)
Don Young (R-AK)

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