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Historic hearing highlights stories of real harm caused by discriminatory law
Washington– The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – praised today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act – a bill that would repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal recognition to legally married same-sex couples. The hearing was called by Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
“Today’s hearing proved that married same-sex couples share the same values and needs as other married couples but are constantly hamstrung in their ability to protect themselves because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese who himself testified at the hearing. “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.”
This is the first time the issue of repealing DOMA has had 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 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.
At the hearing this morning, Solmonese told the story of Rachel Black and Lea Matthews from the Bronx, who were present in the room with their five-year old daughter, Nora. With marriage now a reality for gay and lesbian couples in New York, Rachel and Lea are excited to be tying the knot at long last. As Solmonese explained, “Rachel and Lea worry about the important protections their family will still be denied, like unpaid leave from work for one to care for the other if she gets sick, or the ability to continue health coverage for their family if one of them gets laid off.”
“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.”
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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