Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: FULL Repeal of DOMA Introduced to U.S. House Called the 'Respect for Marriage Act'

Today U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), along with Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) Jared Polis (D-CO), John Lewis (D-GA) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), introduced the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) at a press conference, and contrary to earlier reports that it was a partial repeal, what was introduced today is a FULL repeal of all three sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). So far, the bill has 91 co-sponsors.

From Nadler's press release:
The 13-year-old DOMA singles out legally married same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment under federal law, selectively denying them critical federal responsibilities and rights, including programs like social security that are intended to ensure the stability and security of American families.

The Respect for Marriage Act, the consensus of months of planning and organizing among the nation’s leading LGBT and civil rights stakeholders and legislators, would ensure that valid marriages are respected under federal law, providing couples with much-needed certainty that their lawful marriages will be honored under federal law and that they will have the same access to federal responsibilities and rights as all other married couples.

The Respect of Marriage Act would accomplish this by repealing DOMA in its entirety and by adopting the place-of-celebration rule recommended in the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, which embraces the common law principle that marriages that are valid in the state where they were entered into will be recognized. While this rule governs recognition of marriage for purposes of federal law, marriage recognition under state law would continue to be decided by each state.

The Respect for Marriage Act would not tell any state who can marry or how married couples must be treated for purposes of state law, and would not obligate any person, church, city or state to celebrate or license a marriage of two people of the same sex. It would merely restore the approach historically taken by states of determining, under principles of comity and Full Faith and Credit, whether to honor a couple’s marriage for purposes of state law.


“The full repeal of DOMA is long overdue,” said Rep. Nadler. “When DOMA was passed in 1996, its full harm may not have been apparent to all Members of Congress because same-sex couples were not yet able to marry. It was a so-called ‘defense’ against a hypothetical harm. This made it easy for our opponents to demonize gay and lesbian families. Now, in 2009, we have tens of thousands of married same-sex couples in this country, living openly, raising families and paying taxes in states that have granted them the right to marry, and it has become abundantly clear that, while the sky has not fallen on the institution of marriage, as DOMA supporters had claimed, DOMA is causing these couples concrete and lasting harm. Discrimination against committed couples and stable families is terrible federal policy. But, with a President who is committed to repealing DOMA and a broad, diverse coalition of Americans on our side, we now have a real opportunity to remove from the books this obnoxious and ugly law.”
The rest of the press release contains inspirational quotes from fellow Representatives, Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Kevin Cathcart of Lambda Legal.

The Advocate reports that at the press conference, Nadler read a statement from President Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA into law in 1996, thanking the Representatives for introducing RMA.

“Throughout my life I have opposed discrimination of any kind," Clinton said in the statement. "When the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, gay couples could not marry anywhere in the United States or the world for that matter. Thirteen years later, the fabric of our country has changed, and so should this policy.”

The bill will repeal all three sections of DOMA, which are:
  1. The federal definition of marriage being between one man and one woman.
  2. Allows states to ignore other state's recognition of same-sex marriage.
  3. Prohibits federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages.
As Rep. Baldwin put it at the press conference, "The legislation we're introducing today will legally extend to legally married same-sex couples the same federal rights and recognitions now offered to heterosexual couples -- nothing more, nothing less."

However, states will still have the right to not recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states, a right they have always had in regards to any and all marriages performed outside their borders.

“States would have to apply the normal principles of comity, which dictate when you recognize the actions of another state,” explained Nadler. “Under the full faith and credit clause of the constitution, the conclusion might be that in some cases they recognize it and in some cases, they don’t.”

In an effort to address this, the bill contains a "certainty" provision which guarantees a married same-sex couple that federal benefits will follow them wherever they live, even in a state that doesn't recognize their marriage.

This "certainty" provision was one of the reasons that openly gay Rep. Barney Frank declined to cosponsor the bill, claiming he's against the strategy which could cause resistance in Congress and that it's confusing. Frank is placing his bets on the federal case against DOMA filed by GLAD.

Congressman Polis disregarded Frank's views, saying at the press conference, "Whether this takes a year, six months, three years, what we're accomplishing here today is getting the ball rolling."

Naturally, our friends at the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is up in arms over the bill's introduction. In an email sent out today asking members for money to fight this development, Executive Director Brian Brown wrote:
We've known this day would come. President Obama has been advocating the repeal of DOMA since his first day in office. Gay marriage activists have debated the strategy and timing for pushing the bill in Congress.

And we're ready. Already, we are more than 500,000 strong as Americans from every walk of life have joined our ranks to stand firm against radical efforts to force same-sex marriage in every state. Our goal is 2 million Americans by the end of 2010. If each of us were to tell just three friends about TwoMillionforMarriage.com, we'd reach our goal in mere days.

Now it's time to speak truth to power! Gay marriage advocates are divided on DOMA -- even Rep. Barney Frank thinks the DOMA repeal bill is overreaching and has refused to support it. Now is our chance to send a clear message to Congress that will galvanize opposition to the DOMA repeal, and help sway those who are on the fence. The message is simple: Don't mess with marriage.

Just a few years ago, gay marriage advocates spoke of "state's rights" and a "gay marriage experiment" in a handful of states. Obviously, they didn't believe a word of it, and today they want to force same-sex marriage on every state in the nation, "like it or not."

Marriage isn't about inside-the-Beltway opportunism, or scoring political points. It's about honesty and integrity. Protecting children and religious liberty.
Pam's House Blend has a list of many more official responses to the bill.

Currently no equivalent bill in the Senate has been introduced, but sources of the Advocate claim the Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York are in discussions.

Read HRC's survey results on the effects of DOMA.

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