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Where Does Jack Reed Stand on DOMA Repeal?

November 20, 2011

Rhode Islanders pretty much always know where U.S. Sen. Jack Reed stands on issues. But RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay has found a hot-button social issue on which Reed has been mum.

Jack Reed has long been Rhode Island’s most respected political figure. Even in the anti-Washington  and anti-incumbent swirl that has enveloped the nation’s capitol, every Rhode Island public opinion survey for years has shown high job approval ratings for Reed.

In his last re-election campaign, Democrat Reed coasted to victory with well over 70 percent of the vote. There are many reasons for this. Reed, the son of a Cranston janitor, has a life story that resonates with Rhode Islanders. A graduate of West Point and Harvard Law School, he never took anything for granted and started his stride up the political ladder at the Rhode Island state senate.

First elected to the U.S. House in 1990 and the Senate in 1996, he is known as one of the hardest-working lawmakers in Washington. He and his staff are attentive to Rhode Island’s needs. With his off-the-rack suits, his everyman persona and relentless retail politicking, Reed holds one of the safest senate seats in our seriously polarized nation.

And by dint of his work ethic and smarts, Reed has become one of   the go-to guys in Washington, a man whose judgment is solicited by colleagues, presidents and journalists on a spectrum of issues, from foreign policy to military affairs and banking regulation.

Along the way, Reed has carved a reputation as a cautious lawmaker who thinks things out before making a decision. Any reporter who has followed him for any significant amount of time discovers that Reed is that rare politician with a deep understanding of the intellectual scaffolding of American history and government and U.S. foreign policy. And if you don’t think Reed is loyal, ask newly minted federal judge Jack McConnell.

He has a fairly traditional Democratic liberal voting record and is usually not afraid of taking strong stands, such as his opposition to the Iraq War. A practicing Roman Catholic, Reed has nonetheless been an unwavering supporter of abortion rights. And Reed has supported gay rights, most prominently by calling for an end to the `Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy on gays in the military.

So why has Reed been so reluctant to say just where he stands on repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act? Repeal of this 1996 law has been a priority of the gay rights movement, both in Rhode Island and nationally. For about two months, Reed has ducked questions on his stance on this legislation.

Reed spokesman Chip Unruh says “He continues to carefully study the issue and  continues to hear from Rhode Islanders.’’

Reed declined a request to discuss the pros and cons of the topic. Which is curious because as the  senior member of Rhode Island’s Washington delegation, Reed is usually the leader on issues, with the three other Democrats taking their cues from him. Not on DOMA.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline have all publicly supported repeal. So has Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Before casting his vote for repeal in the Judiciary Committee, Whitehouse said, “I have had the privilege of hearing from numerous Rhode Islanders in loving, committed same-sex relationships, civil unions and marriages who suffering needlessly under current law.’’

The Senate  Judiciary Committee which approved  repeal on a 10 to 8 vote.

While reflecting on the repeal of DOMA, Langevin recalled a moment when his father told him that one day our nation would look back in disbelief at a time when fellow citizens were denied civil rights because of their sexual orientation.’’

And  Cicilline, who is openly gay, insists that discrimination against a person based on their sexual orientation is wrong and should be illegal.

But what does Jack Reed say? He says he’s thinking about it. Doesn’t Reed owe all Rhode Islanders an explanation of where he stands on an issue of importance to so many of his constituents?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. tim1999 permalink
    November 21, 2011 2:53 am

    Scotso the DOMA Repeal is of little or no interest to the overwhelming majority of Jack Reed’s constituents.
    Also read your toe sucking tribute to Jack with great amusement. Truth be told (a foreign concept you Scotso) Jack Reed is actually an incredibly unimpressive individual by any measure. His resume of actual real world accomplishment is sparse, his voting record in Washington is loony liberal and his politcal success here in L’il Rhody is hardly a surprise given the historical and hysterical tilt of this backwater.
    Jack Reed being seen as a “go-to guy” in DC speaks directly to the stunning lack of genuine leadership and intellectual depth found within the nation’s capital these days.

  2. November 21, 2011 7:22 pm

    Well, Reed was reelected with 73 percent of the vote. He must be doing something right.

  3. November 21, 2011 11:39 pm

    Scott, you answered your own dilemma.

    Jack Reed is thoughtful and deliberate if anything. He does not run to the head of the pack just to be trendy and he is a practicing Catholic as far a I know. He took a strong stand as a pro-choice legislator against strong pressure from conservative Catholics and the bishop, and he is a personal friend of the former Bishop Mulvey.

    How much must one legislator do ? He was against DADT, a stand-up postion for a Catholic and a well-known military man and West Pointer..On DADT and abortion rights he responded to constituent desires. Much of the DOMA support is for the intellectual concept of tradtional marriage ; the opposition of LGBT groups against DOMA is in reality an intellectual position as DOMA has not interfered with civil unions approved in RI, and marriage equality in other states such as Mass..President Obama’s view of DOMA is at best mixed as a political issue and is most probably for it on the personal level of he and Michelle .

    Most RI’ers and most Americans, according to polls, support the idea of a man and a woman as traditional marriage partners while at the same time allowing same sex partners to have civil unions and in some polls allowing full marriage..Jack Reed is respondoing to his RI constituents, most of whom support the concept of traditional marrage. On the most political level, he is mulling the matter over by not rushing forward. . .

    I support marriage equality but having been raised a Catholoc and attended Catholic schools right through college I understand traditionalists who support DOMA even though I disagree. It is important to respect other’s wishes as long as they do not inmterfere with the rights of others. Gay people can marry in many places and may eventually marry in RI, probably next year. Whether DOMA stays or goes is not going to matter but the sanctity of the traditional marriage matters to a lot of people. And I think Senator Reed knows that.

    Scott, your concern is maybe the difference between a reporter and a leader !

  4. November 22, 2011 3:44 pm

    Good points Joe

  5. James E. Fayal permalink
    November 26, 2011 10:14 pm

    Actually, Reed was one of the last of the liberal Democratic Senators to publicly support the repeal of DADT and certainly the last member of the RI delegation to do so.

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  1. Prop 8 Trial Tracker » Yes, where DOES Jack Reed stand on DOMA Repeal?

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