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Democrats move forward with repeal of rest of DOMA

Democratic lawmakers have re-introduced a bill that would allow legally married same-sex couples to receive federal benefits whether their state recognized same-sex marriage or not following the victories in the US Supreme Court
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Photo by United States Senate

US Democrats Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Jerrold Nadler have re-introduced a bill to repeal the rest of the Defense of Marriage Act after the US Supreme Court struck out Section 3 of the law which prevented over a thousand federal benefits going to same-sex married couples.

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the entire Defense of Marriage Act and would allow those benefits to flow to legally married same-sex couples whether they reside in a state where same-sex marriages are performed or not.

‘Today’s Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor affirms what we stand for as Americans - the guarantee that every person and every family is given equal respect under the law,’ Nadler said in a statement.

‘It means that married same-sex couples can participate fully in federal programs that provide much-needed security for American families. Far beyond this, today’s ruling also means that these couples—their loving commitments and lawful marriages—will finally receive their government’s equal respect and support.

‘We should rejoice and celebrate today’s ruling, but our work is not yet done. The Court has ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, but Congress still must repeal the law in its entirety. That is why we are reintroducing the Respect for Marriage Act, which repeals DOMA in its entirety and sends DOMA into the history books where it belongs.

‘This bill ensures repeal of section 2 of DOMA, which was not at issue in the Windsor case and purports to excuse the states from even considering whether to honor the marriage of a gay and lesbian couple performed by a sister state. The bill also provides a uniform rule for recognizing couples under federal law, ensuring that all lawfully married couples will be recognized under federal law, no matter where they live.’

In re-introducing the bill on Wednesday, Senator Feinstein said it was time for the rest of the law to go.

‘DOMA is a discriminatory law – all of it should be fully stricken from the books. It was wrong when it was passed, and it should be repealed,’ Feinstein said.

‘Even after the Windsor decision, there will remain inconsistencies in how certain federal programs are administered. For example, the Social Security Act provides Survivors’ Benefits – which are critical for families after a spouse dies – based on the law of the state where the deceased spouse was domiciled at the time of death.

'So, a married couple could live together for 40 years, contribute equally to the system, and then be stripped of what they have earned – just because they moved to another state for medical reasons before one spouse passed. That’s just not right.

‘Veterans benefits are based on the law of the state where the parties resided at the time of the marriage, or when the right to benefits accrued. So, different veterans benefits might be granted or denied, depending on where a couple lived at different times, without any rhyme or reason. That’s not fair to former service members who may have moved around as part of their military service.

‘This bill is simple. It would strike all of DOMA, a discriminatory law, from the U.S. Code. And, it would provide a clear rule that the Federal government would recognize a marriage if that marriage is valid in the State where it was entered into.

'This rule will provide clarity and predictability for legally married same-sex couples, and it will be easy to administer for federal agencies tasked with ending DOMA in the programs they administer. The bill would not require any state to issue a marriage license it does not wish to issue, nor would it require any religious institution to perform any marriage.'

The bill already has 161 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 41 co-sponsors in the Senate.

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