Congress' first-ever hearing on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act took place in the Senate Judiciary Committee July 20.
DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing states' same-sex marriages and purports to give states cover to refuse to recognize other states' same-sex marriages.
The bill to repeal DOMA was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
"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," said HRC President Joe Solmonese, who 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."
DOMA prevents same-sex couples from accessing more than 1,100 federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage, including Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee spousal health coverage, protection against a spouse losing a shared home during a medical emergency, the right to sponsor a foreign partner for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave, and the ability to file joint tax returns.
"In 1996, DOMA was just hypothetical discrimination because every state excluded same-sex couples from marriage," Solmonese said. "Today we see it in much more concrete terms -- as tangible, heart-wrenching, real-life discrimination."
At a Feinstein press conference July 19, staged with the Courage Campaign, Courage chair Rick Jacobs said: "We are tired of second-class, and in some cases, third-class citizenship in our own country. We pay taxes, we serve our communities and we work hard. We are entitled to the same rights, freedoms and benefits as other Americans. No more, no less."