Committee ponders harms of DOMA; ACLU testifies
July 27, 2011
WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee recently held the first congressional hearing on the harms of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) since the law’s passage in 1996. As a result of the discrimination perpetrated by DOMA, same-sex couples who are legally married are nevertheless denied all of the federal benefits and protections available to all other married couples. These couples and their families are currently denied the more than 1,100 federal protections and responsibilities that apply to married opposite-sex couples, including Social Security survivor benefits and the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598 and H.R. 1116), legislation pending in both the Senate and the House, would repeal DOMA in its entirety, as well as provide all married couples certainty that regardless of where they travel or move in the country, they would not be treated as strangers under federal law. The Respect for Marriage Act would return the federal government to its historic role in deferring to states in determining who is married.

“DOMA is discrimination disguised as government policy, and the harm it has caused thousands of American families is undeniable,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office. “By continuing to single out lawfully married same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment, this law runs counter to our country’s fundamental ideals of fairness. With the support of both the president and Department of Justice, as well DOMA’s original congressional author, Congress can and should make repealing DOMA a priority.”

In February 2011 the Obama Administration said it will no longer oppose court challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act. In June 2011 the Washington Post reported that President Obama applauded New York's decision to legalize gay marriage, calling the Defense of Marriage Act "unconstitutional."

To read the ACLU’s testimony, go here.

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