Of DOMA and Dodos

Earlier today, I attended a press conference hosted by Representative Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), at which he announced the formal introduction in Congress, with over 90 original co-sponsors no less, of the long-awaited “Respect for Marriage Act of 2009.” This much-anticipated legislation would fully repeal the mean-spirited and discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies lawfully married gay and lesbian couples more than 1,100 federal rights and protections that are afforded to all opposite-sex married couples.

ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Chris Anders speaks at a press conference on the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act.
ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Chris Anders speaks at a press conference on the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act.

Just what are some of these protections you ask? Well, they include things like the ability to receive spousal survivor benefits under Social Security, taking unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse, and being able to file taxes jointly, just to name a few.

In many respects, it is hard to imagine just how far we have come in the 13 years since DOMA was signed into law in 1996. Back then, gay and lesbian couples could not legally marry in any state. In fact, the concept of civil unions was considered pretty radical. By contrast, gay and lesbian couples today enjoy full marriage equality in six states from Maine to Iowa, with several others offering broad protections that fall short of marriage like civil unions and domestic partnerships. However, because of DOMA, even those couples who enjoy marriage equality at the state-level are denied every single one of the federal rights and protections that are given, almost as an afterthought, to opposite-sex married couples. Additionally, voters in Maine will soon decide a ballot measure that would strip away marriage rights from gay and lesbian couples in that state. I encourage everyone to check-out the website for “Vote No on 1/Protect Maine Equality” to find out more and learn how you can get involved.

Views on DOMA, even among one-time supporters like President Clinton and Members of Congress like former Representative and DOMA author Bob Barr, have changed over time and many now support its repeal. Additionally, President Obama has pledged his support for repealing DOMA.

As I listened to the morning press conference and speaker after speaker explain why repealing DOMA was so important, I could not quite shake another image from my mind — that of the long-extinct Dodo bird. As the Dodo has been extinct since the late 17th century, all we have left of it are colorful paintings, fossils in museums and the phrase “going the way of the Dodo.” Thanks to the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act, we are now just a little further along the path towards making DOMA go the way of the Dodo. And, unlike the harmless, fruit-eating, flightless Dodo, DOMA really has it coming!

Someday, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be able to look back and view DOMA as just an ugly relic of history and a reminder of the need to remain vigilant and ever-focused on the struggle for fundamental fairness and equality. With the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act, Congress has now taken the first step towards making that a reality.

View comments (24)
Read the Terms of Use

Ray Thornton

I think the American people spoke on this many times already. I think taking people to court to get your way is kinda chidish isn't. I guess I forgot that nobody is more important than the aclu especially since they know what is best for you no matter how much us poor ignorants think we can think for ourselves and in most cases have made are views be known. In my opinion the aclu are nothing but terrorists,political,environmental and legal terrorists.
I grew up in the 60's. I turned 18 in 1968 and would have gone to Canada before going to Viet Nam to fight a people that had never done anything to us and that was strickly an imperialistic war. I thought the aclu was neccesary and was there to help right injustices. I found out first hand that they do not care for U S citizens, only about themselves and there private ajendas at any cost. They are a dangerous old boys club and wheather the bleeding heart democrats know or care is another matter.
Try thinking for yourselves rather than a thought that some left wing leberal or socialist activist tells you to believe in.


I believe that a gay couple can for a "union" but marriage really should be between man and woman. In this country immorality keeps pushing the envelope. The day of the nuclear family is dwindling. I am sure that that makes aclu happy because if it is wrong it must be aclu. I may be overdramatizing, but it does seem to ring true.aclu has its own agenda (far left)not what is best for morality,but what is best for the immoral minority (not race)becoming majority.
also, what about that kid on the bus in Illinois? had the race been reversed, you would have been all over that! right?

Saint Luke

Thanks God that, in this country, we have people that thinks different(of those narrow minded right-wing folks) and fight for what's right, even when they are not directly benefiting from it. As part as one of many gay-families that are forced to be separate for the lack of federal rights, I just wanna say THANKs ACLU for your efforts...it gives, not only to me but to many others, I little hope that one day our families will be united again! God bless you all!!


the aclu take away freedom of speech. it tries to kill religion in america. it is their way or no way . aclu queers are digusting perverted animals.


Everyone is afforded the right to freedom of speech, that's what makes this country different from almost every other country. Ignorance is rampant, and I'm glad the ACLU is there to protect our God-given rights in this great country. There is supposed to be a separation between church and state, so if that's what you want to call "killing" religion, you are one of the rampant ignoramouses. Long live the ACLU!


Of course the ACLU has its "own agenda." Its agenda is promoting liberty. I wish more people had that agenda. As a married straight man, I feel a bit like a white member of a whites-only country club. It's the exclusion of gays -- not their inclusion -- that cheapens the institution of marriage.


It is Childish to assume that cause the majority wants it, then it is right. The ACLU has the difficult job of defending Civil Liberties whereever they are violated. This makes them sometimes hated by the left, and sometimes hated by the right but make the cause all the more noble. I am a happily married man, with 2 children, who attend a Methodist Church, but I thank God for the brave people who work for the ACLU doing such thankless work.


God Bless the ACLU for fighting for historically marginalized and oppressed minorities/communities. Having an organization that fights for people's rights is a blessing when people filled with hate and injustice attempt to strip away our human dignity. I am proud to be an American and proud to have such an amazing group of people serving our brothers in sisters in our struggle for equality. -much love- mario


It's about time that the Respect for Marriage Act be enacted to restore equal rights for all loving people to share their lives together and receive the same benefits and privileges at the Federal level as others who happen to be of different genders. Of course, being married federally has its negatives as well and same gender couples will share those negative consequences with all the other married people.

I am pleased that among the prime sponsors is a newly elected congressman from Colorado Jared Polis. He is making good on one of his campaign promises.

Marriage is a religious concept that was appropriated by the Governments to stand for a concept of two people living together in a contractual relationship. The simplest way to cure the problem is to redefine "marriage" and its synonyms used in all Federal (and State and Local) laws as the contractual union of two people without reference to gender or the process of entering into the contract.

southern redneck

i think gays should burn in hell


Stay Informed