Schumer backs marriage, repeal of DOMA

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Monday March 23, 2009

In what could become a watershed moment for LGBT activism in the Empire State, senior New York Sen. Chuck Schumer announced last night he now supports marriage for same-sex couples and is committed to a full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Schumer made the announcement at a dinner organized by Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle and former ESPA co-chair Jeff Soref at the Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan. The Daily News reported state Assemblymembers Danny O'Donnell, Deborah Glick and Micah Kellner and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn were among those who attended.

"It's time," Schumer's office said in a statement to the Daily News. "Equality is something that has always been a hallmark of America and no group should be deprived of it. New York, which has always been at the forefront on issues of equality, is appropriately poised to take a lead on this issue."

Schumer's announcement comes roughly two months after freshman Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand indicated she supports nuptials for gays and lesbians and the repeal of DOMA. Governor David Paterson appointed her to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate.

LGBT activists in New York had long criticized both Schumer and Clinton for their failure to endorse marriage for same-sex couples, but Schumer's change of heart will almost certainly bolster efforts to pass marriage legislation in Albany.

"Equality is something that has always been a hallmark of America and no group should be deprived of it."

"Like a majority of New Yorkers, Sen. Schumer recognizes that only marriage equality provides same-sex couples the status, protections and rights afforded to all other Americans," Van Capelle said. "We look forward to working with him to win marriage equality in New York State and around the country."

Cathy Marino-Thomas, board president for Marriage Equality New York, described Schumer's decision as "an important move for my family."

"Sen. Schumer [recognizes] that only marriage equality provides my family with the status, protections and rights afforded to all other Americans."

Schumer, who supported DOMA in 1996, is now among the nine U.S. Senators who supports marriage for same-sex couples. And he is the highest ranking legislator in the country to have publicly endorsed nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese added in a statement he feels Schumer adds momentum in the fight for marriage and the repeal of DOMA.

"As someone who voted for DOMA in 1996, Sen. Schumer sends a strong signal to other DOMA supporters that it is time to reevaluate and push for equal treatment of married couples," he said.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.