Gillibrand Is ‘Quite Optimistic’ About Repealing DOMA Soon

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who helped push the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to a surprise victory in 2011, is hopeful that federal Defense of Marriage Act will be repealed by the end of the year.

“I’m actually quite optimistic we can build the support we need over the next several months,” said Gillibrand at a same-sex marriage forum hosted by Third Way in Washington, D.C.

Gillibrand was joined on stage by David Boies, the lawyer who recently argued for the full legalization of same-sex marriage in a case before the Supreme Court, which has yet to issue a ruling.

Gillibrand said she plans to push for a legislative repeal of DOMA regardless of the court’s decision, and that she’s angling for a vote by the end of the year.

“We are very close to the 60 votes we need,” Gillibrand said, “closer than people think.”

She said the support of Republican senators Mark Kirk and Rob Portman was helpful, and said she was “hopeful” about recruiting two other Republicans, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who have supported similar initiatives.

Gillibrand attributed the recent sea change in politics, which saw a host of state legislatures and members of Congress support same-sex marriage, to a generational shift in which the younger generation is pressuring an older one. And she described an ongoing process, whereby you convince reluctant legislators to first support nondiscrimination in the workplace, and then progress to support for things like same-sex marriage.

“I think with discrimination, you just have to peel back layer after layer,” she said.

When she was appointed to the Senate in 2009, Gillibrand was initially criticized by gay-rights advocates for her relatively conservative views on LGBT issues as a House member from a right-leaning upstate district. But since then, Gillibrand has been one of the more outspoken advocates for gay rights, including her early, prominent role in the campaign to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

More recently, she’s pledged support for an amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill being considered in the Senate, which would recognize same-sex spouses under immigration laws.

That provision has been opposed by Republicans, and, in turn, by some Democrats, including Chuck Schumer, who support its aim, but worry that it would sink the overall bill.

Asked at the forum how Schumer might vote when the amendment is offered on the Senate floor, Gillibrand said, “You’d really have to ask Chuck how he’s going to vote, but I plan to be a very active advocate and I plan to talk to all my colleagues.”

Gillibrand’s advocacy on LGBT issues has helped raise her build a national profile, particularly among liberal Democrats, who have started mentioning her as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.

“When will I have the chance to vote for you for president?” asked one attendee, during the forum’s question-and-answer session.

“I am personally urging Secretary Clinton to run in 2016,” said Gillibrand, who recently met with Clinton to pledge her support. “I’ve told her I plan to support her in every single way I can. So that’s my next big ambition.””

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