Legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act is enjoying record support as the year comes to a close — and an LGBT group backing the bill is optimistic that strength will grow further as additional lawmakers who support marriage equality take their seats at the start of the next Congress.
Upon introduction in the U.S. House early last year, the bill — known as the Respect for Marriage Act — had 109 sponsors, but the total number of has now grown to 159. That’s short of the 218 needed for a majority vote needed for passage, but still a record number.
Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said that number of sponsors was achieved after setting a goal upon the bill’s introduction of finding 50 more sponsors and undertaking a coordinated effort with additional groups to win more support.
“Freedom to Marry set out a goal of adding 50 more sponsors this Congress, and have had dozens and dozens of lobby visits with members and their staff,” Solomon said. “For lobbying members of the Congressional Black Caucus, we partnered up with the National Black Justice Coalition and the ACLU, and for GOP members, we worked with Log Cabin and our GOP lobbyist, Kathryn Lehman.”
The most recent addition to the list of co-sponsors is Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who signed as a co-sponsor to the bill on Nov. 16 after Election Day. In a statement to the Washington Blade, Waters said she decided to co-sponsor the bill to provide benefits to married same-sex couples that currently aren’t afforded to them because of DOMA.
“I was very pleased to support the Respect for Marriage Act, critical legislation that would ensure same-sex couples are afforded the same federal benefits as other married couples within states that recognize their unions,” Waters said. “Under current law, same-sex married couples are denied important protections such as Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights, and family and medical leave.”
Waters’ support also builds on the number of co-sponsors to the bill who are also members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Her support means nine additional caucus members have signed on this year alone, and 34 out of 42 total caucus members are sponsors of the bill.