Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bill Repealing Discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act
November 10, 2011 by Paul Guequierre
Moments ago the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), on a party line vote. DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples and unjustly deprives them of the concrete protections marriage would bring to them and their families. Today's vote is historic. The fight to repeal DOMA was waged in 1996 when it was signed into law, and picked up much needed steam over the past several months. In July, the Committee held a hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act in which HRC President Joe Solmonese testified along with gay and lesbian individuals who had experienced significant hardship because of DOMA. It was the first time Congress had considered DOMA since its enactment 15 years ago.
Yesterday, we released a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee members from a bipartisan group of Governors and Mayors in marriage equality states calling for the repeal of DOMA. These state leaders know first hand how DOMA harms families and they've seen marriage equality strengthen the communities they lead. We also delivered 135,000 petition signatures to Senate offices showing the public truly supports the repeal of DOMA.
DOMA prevents any of the over 1,100 federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage from being afforded to legally married same-sex couples. These include Social Security survivors benefits, federal employee health benefits for spouses, protections against spouses losing their homes in cases of severe medical emergencies, the right to sponsor a foreign born spouse for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave and the ability to file joint tax returns, among many others. 51 percent of voters oppose DOMA while only 34 percent favor it, according to a March 2011 poll by HRC and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.
DOMA is still the law of the land, and the fight goes on. With today's vote, the Respect for Marriage Act advances to the full Senate. We agree with what President Obama said at the 15th Annual HRC National Dinner - "DOMA belongs with 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the history books.
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