Respect for Marriage Act Reintroduced in Congress

Legislation could spell the end of DOMA…for good.

During the new congressional session on Tuesday, January 6, Democrats reintroduced legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in its entirety. The Respect for Marriage Act, reintroduced into the 114th Congress by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would finish the good work that the Supreme Court started when they ruled Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional in Windsor v U.S. in 2013.

Section 3 of DOMA denied same-sex couples all federal protections and benefits granted to other married couples. With this portion of the law gone, gay and lesbian couples living in any of the 36 states (and the District of Columbia) in which same-sex marriages are legal enjoy the same benefits and protections as other married couples. However, Section 2 of DOMA is still in effect. Under this portion of the law, states are allowed to refuse to recognize valid civil marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states. This means that a gay or lesbian couple could be legally married in Massachusetts, then move to Texas and enjoy none of the protections or benefits their marriage previously afforded them, because Texas is one of the fourteen states that still bans same-sex marriage.

If and when the Respect for Marriage Act is passed, all legally married same-sex couples would have access to federal marriage benefits and protections, even if they live in or visit one of the fourteen backward states that do not yet recognize gay and lesbian marriages.

“The vast majority of Americans live in states where same-sex couples can marry and public support for marriage equality is growing stronger by the day," said Nadler, in a statement released earlier this week. "Repeal of DOMA is long overdue. That is why we are reintroducing the Respect for Marriage Act, which repeals DOMA in its entirety and sends DOMA into the history books where it belongs."

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