Press Room

November 10, 2011

Category: Federal Advocacy, Laws and Legislation, Marriage

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bill Repealing Discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act

Respect for Marriage Act Passes Committee on Party Line Vote

11/10/2011

Washington – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, today praised the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 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 in the Senate Judiciary Committee puts us one step closer to ending federal marriage discrimination,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We thank the members of the Judiciary Committee who stood up for LGBT families and particularly thank Chairman Leahy and Senator Feinstein for their leadership in fighting this unjust law.”

Yesterday, HRC released a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee members from a bipartisan group of governors and mayors in marriage equality states calling for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.  California Governor Jerry Brown – whose state recognizes as valid those marriages between same-sex couples that occurred before the passage of Proposition 8 – submitted a separate letter to the committee in support of the legislation.  In addition to the letter, HRC delivered 135,000 petition signatures to Senate offices showing the groundswell of public support for repeal of DOMA.

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, and today’s vote represents another historic first.

“With marriage equality a reality in six states and the District of Columbia, state leaders in both parties are finding it strengthens families,” said Solmonese. “DOMA is government-sanctioned discrimination, which causes real harm.  We call on the United States Senate to rid our nation of this 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 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.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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