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21 Senators Who Voted For DOMA In 1996 But Later Opposed It

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"21 Senators Who Voted For DOMA In 1996 But Later Opposed It"

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Just 17 years ago, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed the U.S. Senate on a devastating 85-14 vote. But since 1996, at least 21 of the Senators who voted for the marriage inequality legislation have changed their minds.

In recent days, several current and former Senators have signed onto amicus briefs, encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down DOMA and/or California’s Proposition 8. The briefs include a quartet of former Senators who no longer believe DOMA constitutional, a group of leading national security and defense experts who believe DOMA harms the U.S. Armed Services, a group of Republicans who believe marriage equality helps children, and a group of Congressional Democrats who believe times have changed since DOMA’s passage.

The growing list of Senators who have evolved since the 1996 vote includes:

  • 1. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). Endorsed marriage equality in 2012, saying adults “should be free to choose who they spend their lives with a committed relationship.”
  • 2. Former Sen. and Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE). Endorsed marriage equality in 2012 in an interview, spurring President Obama to do the same.
  • 3. Former Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Co-sponsored S. 598, a DOMA repeal bill, in 2011.
  • 4. Former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ). Signed an amicus brief with three former Senate colleagues.
  • 5. Former Sen. and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen (R-ME). Signed an amicus brief with other national security and defense experts.
  • 6. Former Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D). Signed an amicus brief with three former Senate colleagues.
  • 7. Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). Signed an amicus brief with three former Senate colleagues and authored a 2009 op/ed in support of marriage equality .
  • 8. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). Signed an amicus brief with more than 200 other Congressional Democrats.
  • 9. Former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA). Told ThinkProgress he no longer supports the law.
  • 10. Former Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI). Co-sponsored S. 598, a DOMA repeal bill, in 2011.
  • 11. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Signed an amicus brief with more than 200 other Congressional Democrats.
  • 12. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Signed an amicus brief with more than 200 other Congressional Democrats.
  • 13. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). Co-sponsored S. 598, a DOMA repeal bill, in 2011.
  • 14. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Signed an amicus brief with more than 200 other Congressional Democrats.
  • 15. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). Signed an amicus brief with more than 200 other Congressional Democrats.
  • 16. Former Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD). Signed an amicus brief with more than 100 other Republican leaders.
  • 17. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). Co-sponsored S. 598, a DOMA repeal bill, in 2011.
  • 18. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Signed an amicus brief with more than 200 other Congressional Democrats.
  • 19. Former Sen. Republican Whip Alan Simpson (R-WY). Signed an amicus brief with three former Senate colleagues.
  • 20. Former Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, later D-PA). Endorsed DOMA repeal in an 2009 editorial, prior to his 2012 death.
  • 21. Former Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN). Wrote that he regretted his DOMA vote, prior to his 2002 death.

In addition to the 40 current Senate Democrats who believe DOMA is unconstitutional, at least four have indicated their opposition to the marriage inequality law in other situations — a significant change from the just 14 courageous Senate Democrats who stood up against it in 1996.

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