Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has introduced a bill to… (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty…)
President Obama endorsed a bill Tuesday that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 15-year-old law denying federal benefits for same-sex couples.
"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,” said White House spokesman Shin Inouye.
DOMA, passed by Congress in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton, defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.
Inouye said the bill introduced by Sen.Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to repeal it would "uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples."
In the past, Obama has voiced support for civil unions for gay couples, but stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage, and instead has said his views are "evolving."
Last year, Obama supported the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Earlier this year, the administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA in court, though it would continue to enforce the law unless it is repealed. But Obama supported the use of "discretion" by immigration officials in cases of married same-sex couples in which one spouse is undocumented.
Yet even as Feinstein spoke to a group of reporters about Wednesday's Senate committee hearing on the repeal, Obama had not officially endorsed it.
Advocates of the repeal were elated upon the announcement.
“It is rare that a White House endorses a bill that has yet to pass first in either the Senate or the House,” said Rick Jacobs, chairman of the gay rights advocacy group Courage Campaign, in a statement. “His support makes clear to all Americans that the Defense of Marriage Act has no place in our society.”