Senate Committee to Hold First Hearing on DOMA

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Thursday …

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Thursday that the committee will hold the first-ever hearing of proposals to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) within the next few weeks. No specific date has been set.

The hearing, officially titled “S. 598, The Respect for Marriage Act: Assessing the Impact of DOMA on American Families,” is the first congressional review of the bill to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. Signed into law in 1996, DOMA removes any obligation for states to recognize other states’ laws permitting same-sex marriage and prohibits the federal government from validating any same-sex union.

The Respect for Marriage Act, originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in 2009 and in the Senate by Leahy, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Kristen Gillbrand (D-NY) and others this past March, will compel jurisdictions to recognize legal same-sex marriages.

If passed, the Act will change the U.S. Code to read, in part, that “an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into.”

At the same time, at least two high-profile federal cases challenging DOMA’s constitutionality are likely on their way to the Supreme Court. Windsor v. United States and Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management both argue that DOMA permits discrimination against gay Americans with regard to federal benefits.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing will broadcast live on the Web. Stay tuned to for further details.

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