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Respect for Marriage Act reintroduced to repeal DOMA, ensure states will honor same-sex marriages from sister states

Pamela Wolf, J.D.

Taking action the very same day of the Supreme Court’s historic decision declaring Sec. 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, hand-in-hand with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reintroduced the Respect for Marriage Act. The bill, which would repeal DOMA in entirety, has 161 original cosponsors in the House and 41 in the Senate.

“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. “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.”

The Respect For Marriage Act would ensure repeal of Sec. 2 of DOMA, which according to Rep. Nadler, “purports to excuse the states from even considering whether to honor the marriage of a gay and lesbian couple performed by a sister state.” Section 2 was not at issue in the case before the Supreme Court. The legislation, which has been introduced in several prior legislative sessions, would also provide a uniform rule for recognizing couples under federal law, so that all lawfully married couples will be recognized under federal law, no matter where they reside.

Sec. 2 of DOMA provides: “No State … shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State … respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State … or a right or claim arising from such relationship.” The demise of Sec. 2 would certainly clear the way for a clearer application of federal law.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court clearly establishes that one class of legally married individuals cannot be denied rights under federal law accorded to all other legally married couples,” Sen. Feinstein said. “Our legislation is necessary because inequities in the administration of more than 1,100 federal laws affected by DOMA—including social security and veterans benefits—will still need to be fixed. It is time Congress strike this discriminatory law once and for all.”