President Barack Obama

Speaking at a news conference this afternoon, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that President Barack Obama endorses legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Carney’s statement came in response to a question from Chris Geidner, a reporter for the LGBT magazine Metro Weekly. The DOMA repeal bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

“I can tell you that the president has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people, our families, friends and neighbors,” Carney said (watch video from ThinkProgress below). “He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Sen. Feinstein and Congressman Nadler, which would take DOMA off the books once and for all. This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”

In response to Carney’s comments, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement: “We thank the President for his support of the Respect for Marriage Act.  He has repeatedly expressed his desire to see the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act repealed and his Justice Department has taken the historic step of ending its defense of that odious law in court.  By supporting this legislation, the President continues to demonstrate his commitment to ending federal discrimination against tens of thousands of lawfully married same-sex couples.”

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said: “Freedom to Marry applauds President Obama’s strong endorsement of the Respect for Marriage Act and the repeal of so-called ‘DOMA.’  The federal government should not be picking and choosing which marriages it will honor and which it will disregard when it comes to the important federal protections that come with marriage, such as Social Security, health coverage, fair tax treatment, and immigration rights. Congress should follow the President’s lead and return the federal government to its traditional practice of honoring all lawful marriages equally – without the ‘gay exception’ of DOMA.”

Robin McGehee, executive director of GetEQUAL, was less enthusiastic about the news. “So, @BarackObama endorses bill w/no chance of passing this year while *still* unwilling to #EvolveAlready around marriage equality? Thanks!” McGehee tweeted.

Although Obama’s stated support for the Respect for Marriage Act is certainly newsworthy, he has long backed the full repeal of DOMA, dating back to his 2008 campaign. And his Justice Department has taken the position in court that portions of the 1996 law are unconstitutional.