Gay Rights and Marriage Equality: Chuck Robb Was Early Senate Advocate
In 1996 Virginia Sen. Chuck Robb, a Democrat, was the only Southerner at the time to vote against the federal Defense of Marriage Act. It was a bold act at the time, but it's something that now seems prescient. As a follow-up to our story last week in which we examined politicians following the polls on both gay rights and same-sex marriage, ABC News spoke with Robb. In 1996, he gave an impassioned address on the floor of the Senate saying, "I feel very strongly that this legislation is wrong." "Despite its name, the Defense of Marriage Act does not defend marriage against some imminent, crippling effect," Robb said. "Although we have made huge strides in the struggle against discrimination based on gender, race, and religion, it is more difficult to see beyond our differences regarding sexual orientation. The fact that our hearts don't speak in the same way is not cause or justification to discriminate." Americans have become more accepting of both gay rights and same-sex marriage, but back then only 67 members of the House and 14 senators voted against DOMA. There were some high-profile Democrats like then- Sen. Joe Biden and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who voted to pass the law, but have now vocally evolved on the issue.