Legislation Introduced To Repeal Discriminatory Defense Of Marriage Act

September 15, 2009 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Bill Would Provide Federal Benefits To Married Same-Sex Couples

CONTACT: (202) 675-2312 or media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON – A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives today that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and respect state marriages by providing federal protections for married same-sex couples. DOMA, passed in 1996, authorized discrimination against lawfully married same-sex couples. Today’s bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, was introduced by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and several others.

“DOMA singles out lawfully married same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment under the law, denying families the more than 1,100 federal protections and responsibilities that apply to married opposite-sex couples,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The Respect for Marriage Act will do more than repeal DOMA; it will promote protections for same-sex couples who are already married. Congress should move quickly to pass this long overdue bill.”

Before DOMA was enacted, federal law deferred to states’ decisions about who was married and who was not. As a result of a discriminatory federal definition of marriage in DOMA, same-sex couples that are married by their home states are nevertheless denied all of the federal benefits and protections available to all other married couples.

“Discrimination should not be the policy of our government. Excluding same-sex couples from having the same protections as their opposite-sex neighbors – or even other same-sex couples in another state – is unfair and wrong,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “Forbidding same-sex couples from being eligible for vital federal protections harms a huge segment of Americans.”

The Respect for Marriage Act also ensures that, once the federal government recognizes the marriage of a same-sex couple, it will continue to recognize that marriage even if the couple moves to another state that would not have allowed the couple to marry in the first place. The Act does not force any state to marry same-sex couples.

“Congress must act now to repeal DOMA and enact the Respect for Marriage Act to ensure that, no matter where a family decides to travel or move, lawfully married same-sex couples will be eligible for the same federal benefits available to all other married couples and won’t lose them simply for crossing state lines,” added Anders.

To read a coalition letter in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, go to: www.aclu.org/lgbt/gen/40983leg20090911.html

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release