In the 1990s, when he was a congressman in the House of Representatives, Tom Barrett voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. Barrett, a Democrat, is now running against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the US mid-western state's recall election. In a recent debate, the Milwaukee mayor was asked if he would sign a civil unions bill if it passed the state's legislature.
'I believe in marriage equality,' said Barrett as reported by Talking Points Memo. 'It is an issue where opinions have evolved. And for younger people in particular, they understand the need to respect relationships. I do respect them.'
Known as DOMA, the federal law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. No state is required to accept gay marriages from other states, and same-sex unions are not recognized by the federal government. This means insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors' benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns do not apply to gay couples. President Bill Clinton signed DOMA in 1996 September.
Ever since President Barack Obama described his eventual evolution to marriage equality, a number of politicians are following his lead. Polls show more and more American citizens support protection for gay families. Pew Research, reported in April, that 'since 2004, there has been a broad-based decline in opposition – including strong opposition –to gay marriage.'
Despite the numbers, gay marriage continues to lose at the ballot box. In early May, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly went for Amendment One. The south-eastern state's constitution now bans civil unions and same-sex marriages.