|DOMA repeal bills introduced in Congress|
|National Center for Lesbian Rights|
Bills were introduced in both houses of the U.S. Congress on March 16 to repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act.
The act prohibits the federal government from recognizing states' same-sex marriages and gives states cover to refuse to recognize each other's same-sex marriages.
The federal-recognition part of the act recently was deemed unconstitutional by President Barack Obama and the Justice Department, which has stopped defending that portion of the act in a series of ongoing federal lawsuits.
At the same time, the department declared that any discrimination based on sexual orientation, like discrimination based on race or religion, is automatically unconstitutional absent some important governmental need for treating gay people differently.
The DOMA-repeal bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, might not see a floor vote in either chamber this year, though it is likely to proceed further in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.
It was introduced in the House by Reps. Jerry Nadler, John Conyers, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis and David Cicilline, the latter four of whom are openly gay. It was introduced in the Senate by Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy and Kirsten Gillibrand. In the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer are among the measure's more than 100 sponsors.
"The debate over DOMA isn't about whether you favor marriage equality, it's about whether the government can pick and choose which marriages they like, and which they don't," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "With five states and D.C. granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples, it's time the federal government stops playing favorites and instead creates an equal playing field for all families."
"In 1996, DOMA was just hypothetical discrimination because every state excluded same-sex couples from marriage," Solmonese added. "Today we see it in much more concrete terms -- as tangible, heart-wrenching, real-life discrimination."
DOMA deprives married same-sex couples of some 1,100 federal marriage rights and benefits -- including Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee spousal health coverage, protections against spouses' losing their homes during medical emergencies, the right to sponsor a foreign partner for immigration, and the ability to file a joint tax return.