UPDATE: Gay Marriage Proponents Target Reed

UPDATE: Chip Unruh, spokesman for Senator Reed, sends this comment: "This is an important issue. The senator always appreciates hearing from Rhode Islanders and takes their input into consideration."

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A coalition of local and national advocates for same-sex marriage have launched a campaign urging Senator Jack Reed to join the other three members of the Rhode Island delegation in supporting a repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

DOMA, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman, forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and holds that no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage sanctioned by another state.

Repealing DOMA has been a top priority of gay rights advocates for years now. And activists have been marshalling support in Congress for the Repect for Marriage Act, which would nullify DOMA.

The coalition pressing Reed includes national organizations Freedom to Marry (which helped with this year's unsuccessful push for a same-sex marriage law in Rhode Island) and Courage Campaign and local groups Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Ocean State Action. The campaign includes a press for media coverage; a video of Deb Tevyaw, widow of a Rhode Island corrections officer and marriage equality advocate who pushed for her wife to get access to Social Security benefits upon her death (the pair were married in Massachusetts); and an online petition drive.

Advocates plan to deliver signatures to Senator Reed's office next week. I've put in a call to Senator Reed's office and will post reaction when I get it.

Freedom to Marry and Courage Campaign were part of an effort to win Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski's support for the Respect for Marriage Act; this is a national effort.

Ray Sullivan, campaign director for MERI, says Senator Reed is an important figure in Washington, with key committee assignments and pull with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Repealing DOMA would be particularly impactful here, he says, because Rhode Island is sandwiched between two states that allow same-sex marriage. Rhode Islanders who cross the border to marry in one of those states would get access to a host of federal rights if DOMA is vanquished. 

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