Lambda Legal: Introduction of Respect for Marriage Act a Watershed Moment
"DOMA did something never done before in U.S. history: It said the federal government will pretend that an entire class of legally married couples is not really married."
(New York, March 16, 2011)—In response to today's introduction in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the 1996 so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Lambda Legal National Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer issued the following statement:
"DOMA now is viewed with deep skepticism from all sides. When members of Congress wrote this discrimination into law in 1996, they made a theoretical pronouncement, prompted both by popular anxiety at the thought that same-sex couples might start marrying, and by the personal and religious views of some about family life. But the days of theorizing are behind us.
"In the past 15 years, a growing number of states and the District of Columbia have come to respect the families of all their residents. Tens of thousands of married lesbian and gay couples are full citizens under state law, yet they face the senseless, hurtful, real-life consequences of Congress' decision to write discrimination into federal law. Lambda Legal has heard from countless married same-sex couples who, because of DOMA, must pay extra federal income taxes on health insurance, are denied essential family benefits through Social Security, endure wrenching separation if one spouse is not an American citizen, and face a host of other injustices large and small.
"DOMA did something never done before in U.S. history: It said the federal government will pretend that an entire class of legally married couples is not really married due to other people's religious or moral views about them, or because they don't fit how a declining number of people envision 'family.'
"Lambda Legal was honored to consult with those who developed this legislation within the House of Representatives in 2009, and applauds the increased support the bill is receiving already in this Congress despite the political shifts of the past election. Introduction of the companion bill in the Senate today—with determined senior leadership from senators Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy, together with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and numerous others—makes clear that many more people now see the harms inflicted by DOMA, and that there's no good reason for our federal government to keep discriminating against these families, or to waste time and taxpayer's money defending DOMA in court. With the court challenges to DOMA advancing firmly, and resolute action launching in both houses of Congress, we are at a watershed moment in the unmasking and stopping of this shameful discrimination."
For more information, please read our FAQ on the Respect for Marriage Act.
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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.