It’s official! Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a landmark congressional hearing on the discriminatory so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and how it harms tens of thousands of married gay and lesbian couples and their families each and every day. This will be the first congressional hearing since the law came into being in 1996 to examine the law with a critical eye.
As an indication of just how much has changed since 1996, both former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), the congressional author of DOMA, as well as President Bill Clinton have called for DOMA’s repeal and passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. This critically important legislation would repeal DOMA in its entirety, as well as provide all married couples certainty that regardless of where they travel or move in the country, they will not be treated as strangers under federal law.
The Judiciary Committee hearing — entitled “Assessing the Impact of DOMA on American Families” — will take place at 10am on Wednesday, July 20.
In light of the recent momentous victory in New York, the number of Americans who enjoy the freedom to marry went from nearly 16 million to 35 million. In addition, it is estimated that between 50,000-80,000 same-sex couples are already legally married throughout the country. DOMA harms these legally married couples and their children and families in big ways and small every day. Some of the harms are particularly devastating, like the denial of Social Security survivor benefits and an inability to use the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a sick or dying partner.
Next week’s hearing is sure to be one to remember. Please stand with the ACLU in urging your members of Congress to support the Respect for Marriage Act. It’s time to put DOMA — an ugly relic of a bigoted and discriminatory past — where it belongs, the dumpster.