DOMA says that for federal purposes a marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman, and that states do not have to recognize homosexual “marriages” that are valid in another state.
In the committee, Democrats spoke about the need to stop discrimination toward gay “married” couples by giving them recognition under federal law that would allow them the same benefits real married couples receive, such as Social Security for a surviving spouse and federal tax benefits.
But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the time spent on voting on a bill that, even if it had sufficient support in the Senate, would not be taken up in the House meant that the issue was more about politics than compassion.
“I think the reversal we’re seeing on the Defense of Marriage Act – a federal law, not a state law – is just another sign of how out of touch that some of our friends across the aisle have been with the American people on this issue,” Cornyn said.
“And I think, unfortunately – and it saddens me to say this – knowing that this bill will never become law in this Congress, I think it’s a transparent appeal to a special interest group that our Democratic friends believe is a key to their electoral victory in 2012,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn also asked Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), majority whip and committee member, about the fate of the bill in the full Senate.
“As the majority whip, when do you expect that this legislation will be scheduled for a vote on the floor, either this year or in 2012?” Cornyn asked.
“I would say that it is very difficult to say what’s coming to the floor because of the filibusters that have been raised against so many issues – none of them from our side of the aisle,” Durbin replied. “But I hope we get a chance to bring it to the calendar.”
Durbin said that even if the bill came to the Senate floor and only the 30 Democrat sponsors of the bill voted for it, it would be “worth it.”
“Here, here,” chimed in Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) lead sponsor of the Respect For Marriage Act.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said that not only is the bill not likely to become law, but that the challenges facing the country should take precedent, especially over “divisive” issues.
“You have the right to lead on any area you want to, which you think is right and I respect that and I honor your commitment and compassion to do that,” Coburn said.
But, he added, “our survival as a nation” is dependent on solving the debt crisis and improving the economy.
“Anything other than working on those problems right now should not be a priority,” Coburn said, adding that he could not support the repeal of DOMA.
Earlier this month, Obama chided the GOP-controlled House of Representatives for wasting time on passing legislation to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the nation’s motto, saying that putting Americans back to work should be a priority in Congress.
"Everybody here -- we are Americans," Obama told a crowd gathered at the Key Bridge along the Washington, D.C., waterfront on Nov. 3. "We’re not people who sit back and watch things happening. And if Congress tells you they don’t have time -- they’ve got time to do it (pass the president’s jobs bill).”
“We’ve been -- in the House of Representatives, what have you guys been debating?” said Obama. “John, you’ve been debating a commemorative coin for baseball? You had legislation reaffirming that ‘In God We Trust’ is our motto? That’s not putting people back to work.”
"I trust in God," Obama said, "but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work."