HRC Blog

Senator Leahy Announces Upcoming Hearing on DOMA Repeal

Today the Human Rights Campaign praised Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy’s announcement that the panel would soon hold a hearing on the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.  DOMA bans the federal government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples and denies loving and committed families equal benefits and equal dignity.

“The federal government shouldn’t be in the business of picking which marriages it likes and which it doesn’t, but that’s exactly what DOMA does,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “With New York soon joining the other five states and DC that treat all couples equally, the federal government needs to level the playing field for all families.”

This is the first time the issue of repealing DOMA will have a hearing in Congress since its enactment nearly 15 years ago.  Additionally, under Sen. Feinstein’s leadership this Congress marks the first time a DOMA repeal bill has ever been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

“We thank Sens. Leahy, Feinstein and Gillibrand for their leadership in ending federal marriage discrimination as well as Rep. Nadler for his advocacy in the House,” said Solmonese.  “We look forward to continuing to work with them on this upcoming hearing and until all marriages are treated equally in the eyes of the law.”

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 survivor 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 partner for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave and the ability to file joint tax returns, among many others.

“In 1996, DOMA was just hypothetical discrimination because every state excluded same-sex couples from marriage,” said Solmonese.  “Today we see it in much more concrete terms – as tangible, heart-wrenching, real-life discrimination.”

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