DOMA repeal bill introduced in Congress

U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., introduced a bill Sept. 15 to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the Clinton-era law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and affirms that states don’t have to recognize other states’ same-sex marriages.

The “Respect for Marriage Act” would extend all 1,100 federal rights and obligations of marriage to married same-sex couples, including in critical areas such as Social Security, spousal immigration, income taxes and family medical leave. It also would ensure that a gay couple’s federal marriage rights remain intact when a couple is in a state that does not allow same-sex marriage.

“It is long past time for DOMA to go,” said Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal. “When DOMA passed in 1996 it was a gratuitous slap in the face. But now, 13 years later, there are thousands of married same-sex couples who are hurt by this law. We’ve come a long way in 13 years and the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of deciding that some married couples are worthy of federal respect and others are not. Married same-sex couples pay federal taxes just like everyone else and have a right to the same respect, important benefits and protections as everyone else.”

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey called DOMA “one of the most discriminatory and far-reaching laws to emerge against our community.”

“DOMA is and has always been an immoral attack on same-sex couples, our families and our fundamental humanity,” Carey said. “This hateful law has only served to discriminate against people and belittle our country’s heralded values of freedom, fairness and justice. It is long past time to repeal DOMA, which has left a moral scar on this country.”

Ninety-one members of Congress are co-sponsoring the repeal bill. Notably missing from the list is gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who refused to support the measure because he believes it is unlikely to pass and fears it may divert energy from such goals as repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that he supports a full repeal of DOMA.

Same-sex marriage is legal in four states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont — and there also are 18,000 married same-sex couples in California, though voters have banned any more same-sex marriages. Same-sex marriage will become legal in Maine in November if it survives a voter referendum. It becomes legal in New Hampshire in January.

By Rex Wockner


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