Congressional leaders have been discussing legislation with two goals in mind:
- Repeal section 3 of DOMA that restricts the federal government's ability to recognize any sort of same-sex relationship, thus barring federal benefits.
- Provide a way for same-sex couples living in states that do not allow them to marry legally to access the same federal benefits afforded to heterosexual spouses.
This new legislation would keep section 2 of DOMA in place which will allow individual states to continue to decide for themselves whether or not to recognize same-sex relationships.
The question arises - what kind of state-defined relationships would the federal government recognize? Marriage only? Or civil unions and domestic partnerships, too?
"The idea is to recognize a relationship or marriage that is recognized by a state," Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union told The Advocate. "So if a couple is legally recognized in any state," he added, "you would be entitled to the federal benefits and protections and liabilities of marriage."
But what if a couple moves to another state? Or what about those couples who can't afford to move to state that will recognize them for either economical or personal reasons?
One solution would be to have criteria that the couple would need to meet in order to receive federal benefits. However, this could prove controversial and more create complications than the legislators want to address, and with more and more states recognizing several types of unions, this option isn't being seriously considered. So the legislators are still brainstorming ways to still recognize couples who move out of a state that recognizes them and those who can't move to one that will.
The exact timing of when the bill may be introduced is not known, but a growing consensus is that it would be before the end of the year and probably within the next several months.
So who are these LGBT allies in Congress? The Advocate reports that they are senators Christopher Dodd, Russ Feingold, and Chuck Schumer, and representatives Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank, Jerrold Nadler, and Jared Polis.
However, Nancy Pelosi told the Bay Area Reporter that it was not a priority. It seems the capitol needs to get on the same page. And I would like to suggest the hope on the one that says "REPEAL!"