Congress members introduce Respect for Marriage Act

Posted on 15 Sep 2009 at 11:12am
U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Today a group of seven members of Congress, along with 91 original co-sponsors, introduced the Respect for Marriage Act that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Those who introduced the Respect for Marriage Act are Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; open lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); and openly gay 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).

The bill would change federal law so that same-sex marriages performed in states where such marriages are legally recognized would also be recognized under federal law as legal marriages, something now prohibited under federal law. The bill would not, however, force states where same-sex marriages are prohibited to recognize the unions as legal marriages.

Here is part of a statement released by the offices of the seven sponsors:

“This legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law which discriminates against lawfully married same-sex couples.

“The 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.”

Watch this Friday’s issue of Dallas Voice for more on the bill, and an explanation of why Congressman Barney Frank — the senior openly gay member of Congress — refused to sign on as a sponsor.

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