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Respect for Marriage Act Introduced in Congress

The Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), was introduced today in the US House of Representatives. Passed in 1996, DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman and denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

According to a press release from Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who is sponsoring the bill and is Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the Respect for Marriage Act will entirely repeal DOMA and will ensure marriages are considered valid in the state where they were entered into. The legislation would not obligate states to legalize same-sex marriage or dictate the rights and responsibilities of marriage under state law.

Rae Carey, President of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, said in a press release, “DOMA is and has always been an immoral attack on same-sex couples, our families and our fundamental humanity. This hateful law has only served to discriminate against people and belittle our country’s heralded values of freedom, fairness and justice. It is long past time to repeal DOMA, which has left a moral scar on this country. Today marks an important step toward closing an ugly chapter in our nation’s history, and for working to ensure same-sex couples and our families are treated fairly. Too many families have been hurt for far too long because of DOMA.”

In addition to this new legislation, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DOMA was filed by Massachusetts state Attorney General Martha Coakley in July and claims that the law forces the state to discriminate against its approximately 16,000 same-sex married couples. Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, is also the first to challenge the constitutionality of DOMA. Another lawsuit challenging the law was filed in March by the Massachusetts chapter of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAAD). Currently, same sex marriage is also legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Sources:

Feminist Daily Newswire 7/9/09; Jerrold Nadler Press Release 9/15/09; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund Press Release 9/15/09