For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Roberta Sklar
Communications Consultant, Freedom to Marry
Mobile: 917-704-6358

Nadler, Baldwin and Polis Introduce the Respect for Marriage Act to Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

Civil Rights advocates and LGBT Americans herald new legislation to overturn one of the nation's most discriminatory laws

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair of
the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil
Liberties, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Jared Polis
(D-CO), along with Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), Congressman John Lewis
(D-GA), Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee
(D-CA), with a total of 91 original co-sponsors to date, introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in the House of
Representatives.  This legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law which discriminates
against lawfully married same-sex couples.

13-year-old DOMA singles out
legally married same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment under federal
law, selectively denying them critical federal responsibilities and rights,
including programs like social security that are intended to ensure the
stability and security of American families.

The Respect for Marriage Act, the consensus
of months of planning and organizing among the nation’s leading LGBT and
civil rights stakeholders and legislators, would ensure that valid marriages
are respected under federal law, providing couples with much-needed certainty
that their lawful marriages will be honored under federal law and that they
will have the same access to federal responsibilities and rights as all other
married couples. 

The Respect of Marriage Act would accomplish
this by repealing DOMA in its
entirety and by adopting the place-of-celebration rule recommended in the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, which
embraces the common law principle that marriages that are valid in the state
where they were entered into will be recognized.  While this rule governs
recognition of marriage for purposes of federal law, marriage recognition under
state law would continue to be decided by each state. 

The Respect for Marriage Act would not tell
any state who can marry or how married couples must be treated for purposes of
state law, and would not obligate any person, church, city or state to
celebrate or license a marriage of two people of the same sex.  It would
merely restore the approach historically taken by states of determining, under
principles of comity and Full Faith and Credit, whether to honor a
couple’s marriage for purposes of state law.  

of DOMA argued in 1996 that the
law is necessary to promote family structures that are best for children, but
every credible medical, social science and child welfare organization has
concluded that same-sex couples are equal parents.  Married gay and
lesbian couples pay taxes, serve their communities and raise children like
other couples.  Their contributions and needs are no different from those
of their neighbors.  The Respect for
Marriage Act would ensure that couples who assume the serious legal
duties of marriage are treated fairly under federal law.

introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act
responds directly to a call from President Obama for Congressional action on
the issue.  As the President recently confirmed:  “I stand by
my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.  It’s
discriminatory, it interferes with States’ rights, and it’s time we
overturned it.”

with the Members of Congress today were couples who have been harmed by DOMA, numerous members of the clergy, and
many of the nation’s leading LGBT and civil rights organizations –
including Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, the National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force, Freedom to Marry, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National
Center for Lesbian Rights, People for the American Way, and the National
Organization of Women.  Also supportive of this legislation, and of this
particular strategy for repealing DOMA,
are the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), who are leading the
litigation efforts challenging DOMA
in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management.

“So-called ‘DOMA’
was a radical departure from the way federal government has treated married
couples throughout most of American history.  It makes more sense to
respect marriages than to destabilize them.  In America,
we don’t have second-class citizens and we shouldn’t have
second-class marriages either,” said Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of
Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage
Matters: America,
Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry.

full repeal of DOMA is long
overdue,” said Rep. Nadler.  “When DOMA was passed in 1996, its full harm may not have been
apparent to all Members of Congress because same-sex couples were not yet able
to marry.  It was a so-called ‘defense’ against a hypothetical
harm.  This made it easy for our opponents to demonize gay and lesbian
families.  Now, in 2009, we have tens of thousands of married same-sex
couples in this country, living openly, raising families and paying taxes in
states that have granted them the right to marry, and it has become abundantly
clear that, while the sky has not fallen on the institution of marriage, as DOMA supporters had claimed, DOMA is causing these couples concrete
and lasting harm.  Discrimination against committed couples and stable
families is terrible federal policy.  But, with a President who is
committed to repealing DOMA and a
broad, diverse coalition of Americans on our side, we now have a real
opportunity to remove from the books this obnoxious and ugly law.”

support of families throughout the nation, our legislation will extend to
same-sex, legally married couples the same federal rights and recognition now
offered to heterosexual married couples, nothing more, nothing less,”
said Rep. Baldwin, Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. 
“As we continually strive to form a more perfect Union,
repealing DOMA is a necessary
step toward full equality for LGBT Americans.”

one should be denied the opportunity to choose his or her spouse,” said
Rep. Polis.  “It is a basic human right and deeply personal
decision.  Throughout history, we have only moved forward when society has
distinguished between traditional values and valueless traditions.  The Defense of Marriage Act – DOMA – is a valueless tradition
that undermines the spirit of love and commitment that couples share and sends
the wrong message to society.  It is time for its repeal.”

the dignity of every human being and the people’s right to freely make
decisions about their own lives is in keeping with the most sacred and
fundamental principles of our democracy,” said Rep. Lewis. 
“That is what made the Defense of
Marriage Act so wrong.  From the founding of this nation, we
made exceptions to this high moral mandate, and as our history shows, it has
always led to the gravest injustice.  Before we travel too far down the
wrong path, we must right this wrong.  We must repeal DOMA and put in its place federal action
that restores the integrity of our democracy.  Over the years, thousands
have paid the price to make this a more open, inclusive society.  We must
not turn back.  We must progress to that point where we seek to build a
national community at peace with itself.”

must work to promote fairness, tolerance and justice for all Americans,
regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Rep. Velazquez. 
“The Respect for Marriage Act
will help to ensure that the rights provided to married couples are extended
across state lines and without prejudice.”

so called Defense of Marriage Act
is discriminatory and unfair and denies fundamental civil liberties to
countless families across America,”
said Rep. Lee.  “Gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans deserve
nothing less that equal protection under the law.”

“The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a hurtful and cynical law enacted
to discriminate against loving, committed same-sex couples.  It does real
harm by denying thousands of lawfully-married same-sex couples the federal
rights and benefits that only flow through marriage.  Many of these include
the protections couples turn to in times of need, like Social Security
survivors’ benefits, medical leave to care for an ailing spouse and equal
treatment under U.S.
immigration laws.  Today’s introduction of legislation to repeal DOMA is a welcome step, and as more
states recognize the commitment of loving same-sex couples and their families,
it's time for this law to go into the history books where it belongs,”
said Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign.

“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 nation'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.  We thank Reps. Nadler, Baldwin and Polis for taking this step toward closing an
ugly chapter in our country's history, and for working to ensure same-sex
couples and our families are treated fairly,” said Rea Carey, Executive
Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

is long past time for DOMA to
go.  When DOMA passed in
1996 it was a gratuitous slap in the face.  But now, 13 years later, there
are thousands of married same-sex couples who are hurt by this law.  We've
come a long way in 13 years and the federal government shouldn't be in the
business of deciding that some married couples are worthy of federal respect
and others are not.  Married same-sex couples pay federal taxes just like
everyone else and have a right to the same important benefits and protections
as everyone else,” said Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director at Lambda



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Freedom to Marry is the gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide. Headed by Evan Wolfson, one of America's leading civil rights advocates and lawyers, Freedom to Marry brings new resources and a renewed context of urgency and opportunity to this social justice movement.

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