N.J. Senator: Repeal DOMA

Robert Menendez speaks out about why he changed his mind about the controversial legislation

Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Menendez

Yesterday in a guest column in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Sen. Robert Menendez reversed his stance on the controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which invalidates same-sex marriages across the country. “Since my vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act 15 years ago, like tens of millions of Americans, I have reflected deeply and frequently about the issue,” he writes.

After much discussion and debate, the senator has announced his support for the Respect of Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA and ensure that all married couples – including same-sex couples who marry in states where gay marriage is legal – would receive the equal benefits of marriage under federal law.

Menendez is the 32nd sponsor of the repeal, which was first introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“Across our country, the attitudes of millions of Americans have changed on this issue,” he writes, “and several states have acted to guarantee the freedom to marry to same-sex couples whose love for each other and life commitment to one another is no different from other couples. These gay men and gay women defend our streets and our citizens as firefighters and police officers; they are small-business people who create jobs; they are teachers who prepare our children to compete in the future. And they are soldiers, Marines and sailors who have put their lives on the line for our country, fighting to protect our freedoms and to combat terrorists who threaten to attack us again.”

He adds that the freedom to marry is a civil rights issue. “Can you imagine not only dealing with a dying loved one and the inevitable fights with your insurance company, but also having to fight just to get into the hospital room to see the person you’ve loved and with whom you’ve spent your life?” he says. “That’s fundamentally unfair, and I don’t want to be a part of continuing that discrimination.”

Menendez is already being lauded by several LGBT rights groups, including Freedom to Marry, for his support of the DOMA repeal. “The so-called Defense of Marriage Act treats committed gay and lesbian couples as second-class citizens and denies them a crucial safety net of protections,” explains Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry.

The LGBT group Garden State Equality was also instrumental in changing minds in N.J. “This is a spectacular moment in our movement to end discrimination in marriage,” adds Steven Goldstein, chair and CEO of Garden State Equality.