According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, President Obama is "proud to support" a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which protects marriage between a man and a woman at the federal level. Obama supports legislation introduced by Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein called the "Respect for Marriage Act" to overturn the law. The Obama Justice Department recently announced it will no longer defend DOMA because Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama have simply declared the 15-year-old law unconstitutional.
"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 in his daily briefing with reporters.
Feinstein, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is hosting the hearing, said she is under no illusion that overturning the ban will be easy, but she does think the public is ready for a change.
"I think eyes have opened. More and more people across this land know people who are gay, who want to have a lasting relationship, who look at marriage as an economic agreement as well as an emotional agreement," said Feinstein, speaking at the National Press Club Tuesday.
So far six states have passed legislation allowing gay marriage within their states, but the federal ban prevents same-sex couples from applying for citizenship benefits, filing federal taxes together or claiming deductions that married people receive. Married gay couples can also not receive spousal benefits under Social Security or take unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons.
The Defense of Marriage Act passed both chambers of Congress by overwhelming margins and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Feinstein was one of 14 senators to oppose the legislation.