Lieberman hails one gay-rights milestone, hedges on next battle

Sen. Joseph Lieberman and a half-dozen other lawmakers celebrated the official repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” today and promised to help discharged service members re-enlist if they want to.

Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said the end of DADT, which mandated the discharge of any openly homosexual member of the U.S. armed forces, was a historic moment in advancing civil rights.

“We were forcing people to conceal their essence, who they were, to live in fear,” he said. Lieberman called it “one of the most satisfying and frankly one of the most thrilling” accomplishments of his career. Lieberman was among those who lead the charge for DADT repeal last December, during a lame-duck session of the previous Congress.

The military officially repealed the policy today, after certification by President Obama and a 60-day waiting period. Lieberman and others suggested they would urge military officials to clear the way for soldiers who had been discharged to now re-enlist.

But he was less clear about another looming gay-rights battle-the push to repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. That law defines marriage as between a man and a woman; bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage; and says states can’t be forced to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state.

Lieberman did not directly answer the question of whether he would support taking DOMA off the books. He signaled support for ending discriminatory federal policies that bar legally married same-sex couples from accessing pension and health benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy. And he seemed to signal support for requiring states to recognize legally-sanctioned unions performed in other states.

“The part that I want to deal with is the full faith and credit that one state has to give to the decisions of another state,” Lieberman said.

Asked for clarification, a spokesman for Lieberman said the senator supports granting “federal employees, same-sex spouses, and domestic partners the same rights and coverage for purposes of health benefits, the Family and Medical Leave Act program, long-term care, life insurance,” and other benefits.

And on DOMA? “Sen. Lieberman is reviewing his position on DOMA.”