Joyce L. Arnold: Liberal, lesbian, Independent, equality activist, writer.

UPDATE Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings regarding The Respect for Marriage Act, and DOMA, will be streamed live, 9:45 AM ET, at the Committee website.

You can also listen at AmericaBlogGay

Tomorrow the Senate, for the first time ever, will hold hearings on repealing DOMA: “S.598, The Respect for Marriage Act: Assessing the Impact of DOMA on American Families.” It begins at 10 AM ET, and will include testimony from both opponents and proponents of DOMA.

Today, the Obama administration, for the first time, formally endorsed The Respect for Marriage Act.

Perhaps that means some significant evolving has taken place, including a realization that “God is in the mix” just might be a reason for supporting equality rather than perpetuating discrimination. Maybe it’s all 2012 politics, and the O campaign realizing it really is losing the support of significant numbers of LGBT people, and allies.

And maybe Obama, and/or his advisors, have also been influenced by what’s happening in New York. From Sudbay at AmericaBlog:

So many marriages are expected on July 24th in NYC that the Mayor has instituted a lottery system with a cap:

Demand for same-sex marriage in New York is so great that the city has decided to cap at 764 the number of couples who can be wed at clerks’ offices on Sunday ….

Mr. Bloomberg said the city would hold a lottery to determine which couples, gay or straight, will be allowed to marry at the five borough clerks’ offices. He said the 764 marriages would be the highest number ever performed by the city in a single day.

But as happy as that is, here’s the thing: as in other states, the marriage by same-gender couples in NY will not be recognized by the federal government. Repeal of DOMA would change that still very unequal part of “marriage equality.”

Via The Atlantic:

The president has “˜long called for a legislative appeal for the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on families,’ White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at Tuesday’s briefing. He said the president “˜is proud’ to support the Respect For Marriage Act, “˜which would take the Defense of Marriage Act off the books for once and for all.’ …

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

In February, the Obama administration announced that the Department of Justice will no longer defend DOMA in court.

On Wednesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the new bill, which would repeal all three sections of DOMA “” which federally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman “” including section 1, which is the name; section 2, which instructs states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states; and section 3, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing legally performed same-sex marriages.

Representatives from both pro- and anti-gay marriage groups will testify before the panel.

At Think Progress, Igor Volsky writes:

Feinstein’s bill currently has 27 Democratic co-sponsors. It would extend over 1,000 federal laws and protections to same-sex couples, including: the right to file joint federal income taxes and claim certain deductions, receive spousal benefits under Social Security, take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act when a loved one falls seriously ill, and obtain the protections of the estate tax when one spouse passes and wants to leave his or her possessions to another.

The Courage Campaign doesn’t get a lot of national attention, but the California based organization has played a key role related to marriage equality. Adam Bink provides this about today’s events:

This morning, we held an emotional press conference in a packed media room at the National Press Club with Sen. Feinstein and three couples who commuted to DC to tell their stories. It was just incredible. …

Then, we got word from the White House that President Obama would heed the call of over 25,000 Courage Campaign members, and formally endorse the Respect for Marriage Act. Why is this a big deal? Because the White House rarely, if ever, endorses legislation that hasn’t passed a house of Congress”¦ and this one hasn’t even passed committee yet. It underscores the urgency of this issue, and it also generates huge momentum to our efforts to bring more Senators on board. How many pro-LGBT Senators are going to let President Obama be ahead of them on this?

I’m not going to pretend to know what Bink was thinking when he wrote that last sentence, but my first thoughts were that given how painfully slow and convoluted Obama’s “evolution” on marriage equality has been, to be seen as less advanced than him really wouldn’t be a good thing for any “pro-LGBT” Elected.

Anyway, another step has been taken. Who knows where Obama will go from here “” past experience says it’s just as likely to be backwards as forwards. Or that he’ll tread water indefinitely. But credit to him for today’s announcement. Now let’s see what happens in the hearings.

Photo of Jay Carney via Washington Blade.