Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the only openly lesbian Member of Congress, is predicting passage of hate crimes legislation and repeal of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) in the next Congress regardless of who is elected President. She told THE WASHINGTON BLADE, the newspaper in the Nation's capital city appealing to homosexuals, that action on those two measures will be her top priority in 2009.
The Republican Leadership managed to tie up the hate crimes bill last year and this year as well. It would make discrimination against homosexuals a Federal crime. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) had problems with his own caucus on the question of whether or not transgender individuals should be included in the legislation.
DOMA was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President William J. (Bill) Clinton on the eve of the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Clinton signed the bill in the middle of the night to avoid DOMA's becoming a controversy at his own convention. DOMA looked ahead to anticipate exactly the situation confronting us in 2008. It provides that if a State of the Union legalizes homosexual marriage no other State is required to recognize that action. Just this year the California Supreme Court legalized homosexual marriage, by a 4-3 vote. A measure to amend the California State Constitution overturning that decision qualified for the ballot this November. If the proposed amendment did not pass and subsequently DOMA were repealed all States would be required to recognize same-sex marriages as currently all States recognize traditional marriages valid in other States.
While Representative Baldwin is correct that the new Congress surely will pass the repeal of DOMA, it is not certain what would happen if the bill were upon the President's desk. Senator Barak H. Obama (D-IL) supports repeal. Senator John S. McCain, III (R-AZ) voted for DOMA when it passed the Congress. Thus far he has not indicated what he would do if DOMA were repealed.
Baldwin and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) were also on a panel sponsored by the Center for American Progress. Smith agreed with Baldwin that these two measures would pass the next Congress. He hinted but did not outright confirm that Senator McCain would sign any such measure.