Another Test Of Marriage Equality

Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, took a step toward true equality for all Americans last week by planning a vote next month on whether to repeal the law that bars the federal government from recognizing lawfully performed marriages between same-sex couples.

Mr. Leahy’s committee held a hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act in July, the first since Congress passed a bill 15 years ago that defined marriage as limited to a man and a woman and President Bill Clinton signed that mean-spirited constitutional affront into law.

The repeal bill has 28 co-sponsors, in addition to Mr. Leahy and the bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California — all of them Democrats. It stands a good chance of passing the committee, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 8.

Even if it passed, mustering the 60 votes needed to overcome an expected Republican-led filibuster would be hard, and the bill’s immediate prospects in the Republican-controlled House seem even more dim.

But it was not that long ago that repeal of the discriminatory law that prevented gay and lesbian troops from serving openly in the military seemed a distant hope.

Meanwhile, several promising legal challenges to marriage law are percolating in the courts. An intriguing new case filed by a disabled Navy veteran with a same-sex spouse will test its constitutionality in the special federal court that handles veterans benefits.

Congress should not need court rulings to recognize the violation of equal protection inherent in the antimarriage act, and should repeal it.