A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives today that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and provide federal protections for married same-sex couples by recognizing marriages that already are already recognized by states. The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI) and John Conyers (D-MI), as well as over 100 additional members of the House of Representatives. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) are expected to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.
“The Respect for Marriage Act will restore fairness to federal law by not only repealing DOMA, but also providing protections for the tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are already married,” said Christopher Anders, American Civil Liberties Union Senior Legislative Counsel. “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. DOMA has real and harmful effects on thousands of American families. Now, with the support of the administration, Congress can and should make DOMA repeal a priority this year.”
In February, the Obama administration announced that the president had concluded that a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional and that the administration would no longer defend the law in litigation challenging the statute. Last week, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), announced that the House of Representatives will defend the discriminatory law. One of the lawsuits affected by the administration’s announcement was filed in November 2010 by the ACLU, the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Edith "Edie" Windsor, who shared her life with her late spouse, Thea Spyer, for 44 years. Windsor challenged the federal government’s refusal under DOMA to recognize her marriage and the imposition of a $363,000 tax on Spyer's estate when she died. Windsor would not have had to pay the tax if she had been married to a man. Windsor spoke today in support of the Respect for Marriage Act.
"My late spouse, Thea Spyer, and I lived together and loved each other for more than four decades,” Windsor said. “When Thea passed away two years ago, I was overcome with grief. In the midst of my heartache, I was forced to pay $363,000 in federal estate tax that I would not have had to pay had I been married to a man.”
The Respect for Marriage Act would entirely repeal DOMA, as well as ensure all married couples that, regardless of where they travel or move in the country, they will not be treated as strangers under federal law. As a result of the discrimination perpetrated by DOMA, same-sex couples who are legally married are nevertheless denied all of the federal benefits and protections available to all other married couples.These couples and their families are currently denied the more than 1,100 federal protections and responsibilities that apply to married opposite-sex couples.
"Because of my overwhelming sense of the unfairness and injustice of this, I decided to bring a lawsuit in federal court in New York challenging DOMA as unconstitutional and seeking the return of the tax I was forced to pay,” added Windsor. “The legislation introduced today by my congressman, Jerry Nadler, and others would accomplish the same result as my lawsuit. Since I am not young and may not have enough time left to fight, all roads that lead to the swift end of DOMA have my full support. All marriages should be treated equally in the eyes of the law."
To learn more about Edie’s case, go to: www.aclu.org/edie.