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Ros-Lehtinen is first Republican to endorse DOMA repeal

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R- Miami, has become the first member of the GOP to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Respect for Marriage was filed by Rep. Jerald Nadler, D-N.Y., and has 124 co-sponors, until now all Democrats.

The Miami Herald reports today that Freedom to Marry and the Log Cabin Republicans announced Ros-Lehtinen’s support for the bill. According to the Herald:

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen said, “I’m pleased to join the Log Cabin Republicans in our fight for marriage equality. I co-sponsored the repeal of DOMA because I firmly believe that equality is enshrined in our constitution and in our great democracy.”

Ros-Lehtinen is also a member of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, created last week ”to examine methods by which the United States can maintain global leadership in the response to the epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.” Ros-Lehtinen, the only Florida Republican in the HIV/AIDS Caucus, joins all of Florida’s congressional Democrats: Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.

Florida has some of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS reported cases in the United States and currently has the longest AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list in the country.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (known as ADAP) provide medications for the treatment of HIV and AIDS for people who cannot afford to pay because they are unemployed, uninsured or underinsured. It has been in a funding crisis since last year.

The National Alliance of States and Territorial AIDS Directors’ latest ADAP Watch (.pdf) indicates that, as of Thursday, at least 8,800 people in 10 states were on AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list. With almost 4,100 people, Florida has 47 percent of the people on a Drug Assistance Program waiting list in the U.S.

Florida’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS reported that through 2010, the total number of people living with HIV and AIDS in the state increased to about 98,000. The report also shows that HIV incidence was by far highest among black men who have sex with men. The state Department of Health defines HIV incidence as the “number or proportion of new HIV infections within a specific population during a defined time period”

In 2008, Florida ranked third among states in the number of reported AIDS cases and third among 38 states that reported HIV cases.

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