DOMA | New Jersey

Sen. Bob Menendez Voted For DOMA: Now He Supports Respect For Marriage

MenendezThis morning, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D., NJ) announced his support for the Respect For Marriage Act, which will, if it becomes law, repeal DOMA forever.

Sen. Menendez actually voted for DOMA back in 1996. But times change, people change, and the wisdom of accumulated years (or the weight of accumulating voter sentiment) has affected a change in Sen. Menendez's heart. In an excellent op-ed in the Newark Star-Ledger this morning, Sen. Menendez wrote:

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 this issue ... for me, this comes down to an issue of fundamental fairness. For me, this comes down to the principles I learned as the child of immigrants and that I cherish as an American: that we believe in equality for all people under the law.

... Across our country, the attitudes of millions of Americans have changed on this issue 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.

For many years, these millions of committed couples have argued that the freedom to marry — their freedom to marry — is a core civil rights issue. I now believe they are right.

Sen. Menendez reminds readers that marriage equality shouldn't be confused with forcing individual churches to perform marriages they deem invalid.

Sen. Menendez is the 33rd senator to support the bill. To date, no Republicans senators have signed on -- though in the House, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., FL) declared her support for the bill in September.

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  1. I applaud my Senator decision, and your continuing coverage of the LEDGER. C'mom Gov Christie, let your heart melt a little...

    Posted by: Robert Baker | Dec 18, 2011 1:47:22 PM

  2. "wisdom of accumulated years", really? Does anyone really believe politicians adopt and change positions based on "deep and frequent reflections"? Menendez was pandering back in 1996, as he's doing now.

    Posted by: HoHo | Dec 18, 2011 1:48:25 PM

  3. Politicians do pander but some do grow and learn while others don't. Just like all people.

    We've heard the argument that being gay is a choice so we should have no rights. While we don't have "scientific proof" yet that being homosexual is genetic or not a choice, homosexuality is found in natural law (animal kingdom) UNLIKE religion which has NO scientific proof and CANNOT be found in natural law.

    Posted by: Sean | Dec 18, 2011 2:09:28 PM

  4. I think if this was put up to a vote there would be Republican Senators voting to pass it. It was a Republican that brought the stand alone version of the DADT repeal after all.

    Posted by: Nautic | Dec 18, 2011 2:09:45 PM

  5. If this is pandering, I welcome more such pandering from Democratic (and Republican) politicians in the future.

    Posted by: jersey | Dec 18, 2011 2:34:42 PM

  6. This is a defensive reaction. I am openly gay and will be elected to the United States Senate seat for New Jersey up in 2012.

    Jonathan Bannon Maher
    U.S. Senate Candidate, N.J. '12

    Posted by: Jonathan Bannon Maher | Dec 18, 2011 3:29:01 PM

  7. If politicians evolve in the right direction and speak publicly and eloquently about that evolution and are willing to vote in our favor, they could be congratulated. As far as pandering goes, frankly, we're not all that important in elections. We should feel lucky to get pandered to. Times have changed in the past 15 years, and Menendez is a reflection of positive progress.

    As for crediting Republicans for passing DADT repeal: please. DADT repeal passed over the objections of the vast majority of Republicans, and The Respect for Marriage Act will be no different. Republicans as a majority have never passed any pro-gay legislation. Ever.

    Posted by: Ernie | Dec 18, 2011 3:38:04 PM

  8. Ernie, correct. Only 8 republicans voted with almost all Democrats to repeal DADT. Republicans have NO intention passing any laws favoring gay people if they regain the White House, ever. They've not authored one bill let alone sponsor on in our favor.

    Posted by: robert in nyc | Dec 18, 2011 4:06:39 PM

  9. Ernie and Robert

    Sorry, you guys are wrong. Joe Lieberman (I) and Susan Collins (R) were the two Senators who introduced the bill that was passed that repealed DADT. They are also the two that have introduced other LGBT orientated legislation.

    Don't paint with such a wide brush. We need support from where ever it comes from. It's even better when they're actually introducing and pushing bills and not just stating support.

    Posted by: Nautic | Dec 18, 2011 4:34:59 PM

  10. Nautic, they're not wrong at all. Unless you are unable to, you know, COUNT, it should be abundantly clear that the GOP is almost entirely anti-gay. pointing to fewer than 5 pro-Equality reps isn't exactly encouraging.

    if you know how to count, and you know how to be honest about the numbers you've counted, then you can't sit here and say that the GOP isn't the Party of Bigotry.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Dec 18, 2011 4:41:51 PM

  11. How are we wrong, Nautic? I wasn't knocking either Joe (who isn't a Republican) or Collins, who is, on DADT. Collins is the rare Republican (and, not coincidentally, from the liberal northeast) who supported DADT repeal, for which she deserves credit. (Introducing a bill doesn't pass it.) But let's not overlook where the vast majority of repeal votes came from (hint: not the Republicans, they're still working to bring it back) and the Republican party as a whole can take no credit for the passage of ANY gay civil rights legislation. We'll stop painting Republicans with a wide brush when the Republicans stop voting with a wide brush, against us. Meanwhile, they don't make a brush narrow enough to paint pro-gay Republicans.

    Furthermore, this post was about Sen. Menendez, who is on record as a cosponsor/supporter of The Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA and allow married gay couples the federal benefits and protections they deserve. I hope Susan Collins (who recently claimed she didn't know what The Respect for Marriage Act was) and other Republicans join their Democratic colleagues in cosponsoring DOMA repeal--I'd be the first in line to congratulate them. But, as of today, we're still waiting . . .

    Posted by: Ernie | Dec 18, 2011 6:56:35 PM

  12. Senator Menendez spoke at our "Gay Day" here in Jersey City a couple of years back, I believe him when he says he's changed.

    Posted by: John Normile | Dec 18, 2011 8:24:23 PM

  13. Yeah can you say Adding gas to a fire...
    Look it was great that the republicans introduced / voted for it, it needed to end. It never would have passed with out all the dems who voted for it.
    But in reality if the republican didn't filibuster Everything with the word gay in it we could have passed it with 50 votes and really wouldnt have needed any republicans. I do however think its better to have support from both sides

    Posted by: George M | Dec 18, 2011 8:25:33 PM

  14. "...the Respect For Marriage Act, which will, if it becomes law, repeal DOMA forever."

    That's true, but it obviously doesn't mean that a Republican-majority Congress couldn't or wouldn't introduce legislation essentially identical to DOMA.

    Posted by: Paul R | Dec 19, 2011 12:18:44 AM

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    Posted by: snapbacks wholesale | Dec 19, 2011 1:20:16 AM

  16. @ SEAN: a couple clarifications: science is likely to show that sexual orientation in men is likely biologically defined (though not necessarily all genetic) and that in women there may be some where it's defined and others, where it's much more situational. And you're right, this is the way the rest of nature is.

    As for religion, it is unnatural, but apparently belief in a higher power that gives people a coherent narrative of the world, themselves, etc. is, in fact, genetic. Thank god, I didn't get that gene and am an atheist/rationalist.

    Of course, all this is messy and not easy for a sound-bite nation to handle, which is why quick emotional stories, in the end, change people's minds. But it also just points to the idea that we should allow people to live as they wish and treat them equally under the law.

    It's too bad that Menendez failed to mention gay people as parents, since that's one of the stories that grabs people.

    Posted by: David R. | Dec 19, 2011 10:52:46 AM

  17. @David R
    I found this link,
    Sen. Menendez did have much more to say on this, and did mention parents.

    Posted by: Janice | Dec 19, 2011 11:10:45 AM

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