The Senate Judiciary Committee met today to discuss legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but after a procedural holdup the legislation has been delayed until next week for a vote.
Passed in 1996, DOMA defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”
The Respect for Marriage Act, which was introduced in March of this year, would provide federal protection to couples married in states that recognize same-sex marriages.
“DOMA has created a tier of second-class families who are not treated equally under the law,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This runs counter to the values upon which America was founded.”
The bill would redefine marriage to be determined by the states, as it historically has been.
“The Respect for Marriage Act would restore the power of states to define and determine ‘marriage’ without the federal government imposing its restrictive definition of marriage on the states,” said Leahy.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) echoed Leahy’s remarks.
“It has been firmly established over decades, that family law, including marriage,” is a law handled by the states.
Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages.
“When DOMA passed, no state had passed a same sex marriage bill,” Feinstein said during the meeting. “Where now, today, there are 131,000 same-sex couples in the United States. They are real people. They’re our family members, our friends, our neighbors. They made a solid commitment of marriage to each other.”
Leahy and Feinstein, who are two of the cosponsors of the bill, were quick to point out that nothing in the bill would force any state or religion to perform same-sex marriages, simply recognize the “1100 federal rights and benefits provided to every other legally married couple in the country,” said Feinstein.
Some of the rights that are not awarded to same-sex marriages include filing joint income taxes, veterans’ benefits, employment benefits and immigration laws.
“All married couples deserve the same clarity, fairness, and security under our Federal law,” said Leahy. “The time has come for the Federal Government to recognize that all married couples deserve the same legal protections.”
Republicans on the committee today requested that the vote be delayed until next week. However, the legislation is expected to pass the panel when it comes to a vote, as it is supported by all ten Democrats on the committee. After that the legislation will go to the full Senate for consideration.