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Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and The Respect for Marriage Act
The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 This federal United States law narrowly defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman effectively barring loving and committed same-sex couples from federal recognition. What this means is that states are not required to recognize marriages between gay and lesbian couples—even if that couple married in Iowa, New York, or any other states where marriage equality has been legalized.
Bill No.: H.R.3396
SEC. 2. POWERS RESERVED TO THE STATES.
(a) `No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.'.
SEC. 3. DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE.
(a) `Sec. 7. Definition of `marriage' and `spouse'
`In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.'.
Read the full bill text here.
The law passed both houses of Congress: 342 to 67 in the US House of Representatives and 85 to 14 in the US Senate.
Section 3 in particular prevents the government from recognizing the validity of marriage equality and has been found unconstitutional in two Massachusetts court cases and a California bankruptcy court case. The court rulings are under appeal.
On February 23, 2011, the Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend the federal legislation in Court. President Obama found Section 3 unconstitutional. Despite this fact, Congress was given the option to defend the law in court in place of the Obama administration. Speaker of the House John Boehner announced in March that he would take steps to defend Section 3 in place of the Department of Justice. Additionally, the Obama administration had intention to enforce the law "unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law's constitutionality."(See article from the White House blog)
There are 1,049 rights and privileges reserved only married couples. The Defense of Marriage Act prevents thousands of gay and lesbian couples each year from being able to take advantage of these rights.
The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) was first introduced in September 2009, a proposed bill that would repeal DOMA and allow the United States federal government to provide benefits to married gay and lesbian couples. Under the enactment of RFMA, individual states would not be required to recognize marriage equality.
Bill No.: HR 3567
To repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure respect for State regulation of marriage.
A BILL to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure respect for State regulation of marriage.
SEC. 2. REPEAL OF SECTION ADDED TO TITLE 28, UNITED STATES CODE, BY SECTION 2 OF THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT.
SEC. 3. MARRIAGE RECOGNITION.
Section 7 of title 1, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
`Sec. 7. Marriage
`(a) For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.
`(b) In this section, the term `State' means a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any other territory or possession of the United States.'.
Read the full bill text here.
U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York announced the introduction of RFMA in 2009 with these words: "Today, we celebrate the first step toward overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and sending that ugly law into the history books where it belongs." At this time, Nadler had 91 original cosponsors for the bill.(See article from The Advocate)
On March 16, 2011, Congressman Nadler introduced the bill again. On the same day, a U.S. Senate version of the bill was introduced by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. On July 19, 2011, White House spokesman Jay Carney announced that President Obama supported the Respect for Marriage Act, and that the president was "proud to support the [repeal effort], which would take the DOMA off the books once and for all." Currently RFMA now has over 125 cosponsors. (See article from the National Journal)
In July 2011 the first-ever congressional hearing to propose the repeal of DOMA took place, chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. On November 3, 2011, the Senate Judiciary Committee debated the bill, where it passed 10-8 in favor of advancing the bill to the Senate floor. On the Senate floor, RFMA would require 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, however some sponsors have admitted that the votes for RFMA simply are not there.
It is clear that the fight for federal recognition of marriage equality is far from over. Keep checking back with One Iowa for the latest updates on DOMA and the Respect for Marriage Act.
More about DOMA and RFMA:
Two Respect for Marriage Act cosponsors bring House total to 156
Freedom to Marry, 9/18/12
This week, two new members of the House of Representatives signed on as co-sponsors for the Respect for Marriage Act. Rep. Mel Watt from North Carolina and Rep. Leonard Boswell from Iowa have become the latest co-sponsors of the bill, raising the total number of co-sponsors in the House to 156. Reps. Watt and Boswell are the third Congressmen from North Carolina and Iowa, respectively, to co-sponsor in the House.
See all 156 of the House co-sponsors and all 33 of the Senate co-sponsors for the Respect for Marriage Act.
Coakley urges Supreme Court to strike down DOMA
Boston Herald, 7/24/12
Attorney General Martha Coakley is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold an appeals court ruling declaring the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, calling an unprecedented high court decision “one of national importance.”
The brief, released today by Coakley’s office, comes in response to one filed last month by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which supports the law known as DOMA and wants to challenge a late-May decision by an appeals court striking down the 1996 law.
House GOP to ask justices by month's end to take on same-sex marriage issue
House Republicans have signaled they plan to ask the Supreme Court by month's end to get involved in a constitutional fight over same-sex marriage.
In a federal court filing Wednesday in Connecticut, the House of Representatives' Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group asked a judge to put on hold consideration of a pending lawsuit in that state over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional says judge
The ruling by Manhattan federal court judge Barbara Jones followed a decision last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston that concluded the Defense of Marriage Act discriminates against gay couples.
Judge Jones became the fifth judge to find the 1996 law unconstitutional, adding weight to the demands of law makers and activists who want the law repealed.
Boston appeals court finds federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional
Associated Press, 5/2012
An appeals court has ruled that a law that denies a host of federal benefits to same-sex married couples is unconstitutional.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled Thursday that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against gay couples.
Senate may try to repeal Defense of Marriage Act
A day after President Barack Obama endorsed gay marriage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested Thursday that Democrats may move to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the Clinton-era law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
Such a move would energize the liberal base and provide a contrast to House Republicans, who passed their own measure this week aimed at bolstering DOMA.
But it could also alienate conservative Democrats in the middle of an election year.
Obama calls for marriage equality, says 'I want everyone treated fairly'
President Barack Obama touched on his recent announcement of support for same-sex marriage, saying at a New York City fundraising event Monday that he believes marriage equality "strengthens families."
"I want everyone treated fairly in this country. We have never gone wrong when we've extended rights and responsibilities to everybody," he said, drawing big applause. "That doesn't weaken families, that strengthens families."
Obama highlighted some of his administration's work in recent years, including the passage of health care reform and the end of combat in Iraq.
He also outlined goals he hopes to accomplish under a second term, including the repeal of the Defense Of Marriage Act, which the administration has already stopped defending.
Defense Of Marriage Act Forces Gay Couple To Live An Ocean Apart
CBS Las Vegas, 5/2012
When Inger Knudson-Judd leaves her job working as a massage therapist and settles in at home for the evening, she often finds herself turning to make an offhand comment to her wife, Philippa, while preparing dinner or doing chores.
It’s when she turns to find no one there to answer that she remembers Philippa is presently an entire ocean away in the United Kingdom.
“I keep forgetting,” Inger admitted to CBS Las Vegas. “And then it comes rushing right back.”
The reason for their separation is the Defense of Marriage Act, which does not recognize their marriage on a federal level.
5 Binational Gay Couples File Suit Against DOMA
The Advocate, 4/2012
A group of married, same-sex binational couples has sued the federal government, claiming that the Defense of Marriage Act, which has long barred equal immigration sponsorship privileges, is unconstitutional.
Five couples — one of whom first met more than 30 years ago, another who had shuffled between the United States and South Africa for over a decade to avoid breaking immigration law — filed suit earlier today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. They allege that the 1996 law, deemed unconstitutional and unworthy of further court defense in 2011 by the Obama administration, violates their equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Multiple challenges to DOMA are already well under way in the courts: An appeals court panel in Boston is set to hear arguments Wednesday in one such case, where a judge ruled nearly two years ago that a section of the law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
Immigration, marriage laws leave same-sex couples in limbo
The Kansas City Star, 3/2012
Love may cross oceans and borders, but tens of thousands of same-sex couples in the United States live under the threat of separation because federal law prohibits immigration authorities from treating them the same as married opposite-sex couples.
And in a country where feelings run deep on immigration and same-sex marriage, the foreign-born same-sex spouses and partners of Americans live in a unique legal limbo: In the eyes of the government, they're neither married nor are they citizens.
It's an emotional and financial burden. They can't leave the country to see loved ones for fear they won't be allowed back. They might not be allowed to work or get loans to pay for college. If they're deported, they can be barred from re-entering the United States.
Lesbian federal worker wins health benefits case; 'DOMA unconstitutional'
The Associated Press, 2/2012
A federal judge in San Francisco ruled Wednesday that the U.S. government cannot deny health benefits to the wife of a lesbian court employee by relying on the 1996 law that bars government recognition of same-sex unions.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said that because the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex married couples, the government's refusal to furnish health insurance to Karen Golinski's wife is unjustified.
"The Court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right to equal protection of the law ... by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse," White wrote in a 43-page decision that marks the third time in less than two years a federal court has declared the act unconstitutional.
Obama DOJ Won’t Defend Constitutionality Of Denying Military Benefits To Same-Sex Couples
Think Progress, 2/2012
The Obama administration has announced that it will not defend laws that prevent married same-sex couples from obtaining military benefits. In a letter to Congress today, Attorney General Eric Holder argued, “[t]he legislative record of these provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex couples of veterans but not to legally married same-sex spouses of veterans … Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that distinction that would warrant treating these provisions differently from Section 3 of DOMA.”
Currently, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prevents federal agencies from recognizing same-sex relationships and Title 38 of the United States Code defines spouses as a person of the opposite sex. Holder added that Congress would “be provided a ‘full and fair opportunity’ to defend the statues in the McLaughlin v. Panetta case if they wished to do so.”
Man faces deportation despite marriage to U.S. citizen
Frederic Deloizy says his life began the day he met Mark Himes by chance at a birthday party in April 1990.
Himes had recently started a job with Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and Deloizy was studying at a nearby college. The strangers arrived at the party at the same time, and Deloizy held the door open for Himes, catching his eye.
"It was love at first sight. We felt we belonged together," Deloizy said.
What followed was a whirlwind romance lived out across two continents, through overseas phone calls and hand-written love letters.
Deloizy, a French national, spent the past two decades in and out of the United States leapfrogging from one visa to another, in hopes of creating a life together with Himes, who was born and raised outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
But 21 years and four adopted children later, the couple -- who were married in California in 2008 -- is fighting to stay together since Deloizy's final visa expired in September.
Deloizy faces deportation because immigration officials are barred from recognizing their marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
DOMA: A Personal Story
from Philadelphia Magazine, 1/9/12.
...Frederick Deloizy is a French national, and, as a foreigner who has seen both his work visa and his student visa expire, the time he has left to share with his family may now be limited.
He wed his partner Mark Himes, a U.S. citizen, in California in 2008, 18 years after they first met. They represent a growing number of same-sex couples with a partner of foreign nationality at risk of separation because immigration officials are barred from recognizing their marriage under the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). By contrast, any bi-national opposite-sex couple in their position would never face a future as uncertain. Despite the hurdles they face, the men decided that they must fight for the green card based on their marriage. To do less, would be to accept the discrimination that has put their family in such a precarious position.
In Defense Of (Same-Sex) Marriage – How DOMA Separates Binational Families And Why It Must Be Abolished
from Immigration Daily, 1/9/12.
Under current federal immigration law and policy, same-sex binational couples who are married or want to get married face widespread discrimination, uncertainty, and a plethora of limitations and complications surrounding their ability to lawfully stay together in the U.S.. This article clarifies the ambiguities, highlights the important signposts along the way and provides tangible direction for ending the anti-gay and anti-lesbian biases wrought into U.S. immigration law by the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”).
Study sheds light on same-sex tax disparity
from NewsOK, 1/8/12.
Income tax season is the busiest time of the year for Tulsa certified public accountant Kelly Kirby, who prepares about 400 returns.
It's also a reminder that he and his partner of 14 years often pay more taxes, because they're not allowed to file jointly as a married couple.
“All of us want to pay our taxes but not more than we're legally obligated to,” Kirby said.
Sen. Durbin Supports Repeal of Defense of Marriage Act in 2012
from examiner.com, 12/25/11
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D) strongly supports ending forms of discrimination that denies federal benefits to same sex marriages. Underscoring the “profound leadership” of Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) with regard to calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Durbin stated on Friday that he will urge support for the repeal. He said “I believe that we should have marriage equality in this country- that we should treat people fairly, that we should not discriminate against them in this circumstance.”
Should we defend marriage, or should we respect marriage?
from The Daily World, 11/26/11
This month, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10 to 8 to pass the "Respect for Marriage Act" (RFA). This law would repeal the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA), which is, of course, discriminatory. In fact, it is the very definition of discriminatory. If you say one thing is better than another thing, that's discrimination. DOMA says heterosexual marriage is better than all other kinds of marriage. This is "defending" marriage, according to the marketing behind the name. The correct name should be DOCKMA (rhymes with dogma), the Discrimination of Certain Kinds of Marriage Act.
Sen. Franken's Press Conference on DOMA (VIDEO):
11/10/11, Sen. Franken
Senator Feinstein on DOMA repeal, marriage equality (VIDEO):
11/7/11, Sen. Feinstein
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese testifying for DOMA Repeal bill (VIDEO):
7/20/11, HRC Media
Nadler Introduces Bill to Repeal DOMA (VIDEO):
7/20/11, Congressman Nadler
Obama's Press Secretary: "We Will Not Defend DOMA" (VIDEO):