Post submitted by Brian Moulton, Former HRC Legal Director
Late last week, Representative Randy Weber, Sr. (R-TX) introduced the “State Marriage Defense Act of 2014,” which would require the federal government to recognize only marriages that are valid under the laws of state in which a couple are domiciled. This legislation would roll back the robust implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and extended federal recognition to the lawful marriages of same-sex couples. Agencies across government have taken the fairest and most practicable approach by recognizing those couples for federal purposes, even if they currently live in a state that does not itself respect their marriages. However, nothing in either the Windsor decision itself, or its implementation by the federal government, requires any state to recognize a marriage it does not wish to for its own purposes.
Weber’s bill would deny federal recognition to thousands of married same-sex couples simply because of the state in which they currently live. It would callously strip federal rights and benefits – like federal employee health benefits, Social Security, immigration rights and many others – from married couples who retire or relocate to a state without marriage equality. In the name of protecting “states’ rights,” Rep. Weber’s bill would take spousal benefits away from the wife of a soldier serving in Afghanistan if she and their children relocated to live closer to her extended family for support. In order to “defend marriage,” his legislation would force a grieving widower to pay an unfair tax on his husband’s estate, simply because the couple had retired nearer to grandchildren in their golden years. This legislation would make our nation’s already-unfair patchwork of laws even more onerous for same-sex couples, and undermine the promise of equal treatment embodies in the historic Windsor decision.
The State Marriage Defense Act is supported by long-time opponents of LGBT equality, including Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops, Concerned Women for America, and Heritage Action.