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Today, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in an op-ed in the New Jersey Star Ledger announces he has agreed to become the 32nd sponsor of the Respect For Marriage Act. 

Sen. Menendez
The senator writes:
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. During this time, I have engaged in discussions about the issue of marriage equality with friends, family members, colleagues and of course, the people I serve in New Jersey. I have heard and listened to many different views.

The conclusion he came to after those meetings?
But for me, this comes down to an issue of fundamental fairness.
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.

Advocacy groups, notably Freedom to Marry and Courage Campaign have been using the foreboding reign of House Speaker Boehner not to despair and hibernate, but rather to focus resources and campaigns to shore up the support of allies. The bill would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, opening the door to federal recognition of same-gender marriages. 

The bill has 134 House sponsors, and in the Senate, the 32 sponsors include every Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which voted in November to advance the Respect for Marriage Act to the full Senate.

The bill would deliver equity to couples in the seven states and Washington, D.C. Additionally, couples in other states would be able to claim federal benefits if legally wed in any jurisdiction. 

Freedom to Marry had this to say:

“Freedom to Marry applauds Senator Menendez for joining the growing list of senators who call on the federal government to end its discriminatory treatment of married same-sex couples,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director for Freedom to Marry. “The so-called Defense of Marriage Act treats committed gay and lesbian couples as second-class citizens and denies them a crucial safety net of protections."

Garden State Equality said:
“This is a spectacular moment in our movement to end discrimination in marriage. As we in New Jersey know well, when Bob Menendez comes on board a cause, you gain more than a supporter – you gain a passionate civil rights champion that never stops fighting by your side.  We at Garden State Equality thank not only Senator Menendez, but also Freedom to Marry and our other national partners that have been indispensible in our fight for equality.” said Steven Goldstein, Chair and CEO of Garden State Equality.
America's march to full equality carries on. 

Thank you, Senator Menendez.

8:17 AM PT: Who will be number 33? Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed has been identified as an important target:

The LGBT group Marriage Equality Rhode Island has launched a new campaign to get Democratic Senator Jack Reed to support DOMA's repeal.

"Reed is the only member of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation who has yet to cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act," says the group in a press release. 

In response to the plea, Reed's office says he may sign on to the repeal, but also says that the Senator believes nuptials should be left to the states.

8:27 AM PT: Courage Campaign commends Senator Menendez on taking this step and reminds us of the senator's work on behalf of a married couple in New Jersey this year:

On July 28, Courage Campaign began the public effort to encourage Sen. Menendez to help end federal discrimination against same-sex couples in his state by joining with Henry Velandia and Josh Vandiver, a married same-sex couple from Princeton whose story of nearly being torn apart because of DOMA became nationally recognized on CNN and elsewhere. Henry and Josh, who work actively with, wrote to Courage members in New Jersey asking them to co-sign their open letter to Sen. Menendez and leave a personal message for him. Thousands of New Jerseyans wrote in to Sen. Menendez, urging him to do the right thing and stand up for constituents being treated as second-class. Josh delivered their messages to Sen. Menendez and his staff earlier this year. The full letter from Josh, Henry and other constituents can be found here.

Originally posted to Milk Men And Women on Sun Dec 18, 2011 at 07:50 AM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Policy Zone.

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