Marriage act

US lawmakers introduce bill to repeal Defense of Marriage Act

Ninety members of the US House of Representatives introduced a bill Tuesday to repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Signed by former president Bill Clinton, DOMA refuses federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples, including social security, tax laws, and immigration rights, and defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Clinton has stated his support for the the new bill, the goals of which President Barack Obama supported during his candidacy.

Called the Respect for Marriage Act and introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the new bill would permit states to define marriage individually:

For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.

No date has been set for voting on the bill, and it is unlikely to be a priority for the current session of Congress.

Last month, a federal judge in California dismissed a challenge to DOMA on jurisdictional grounds. In July, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a suit challenging DOMA on the grounds that it interferes with the state's right to define and regulate marriage. In March, a group of Massachusetts plaintiffs who are or have been married under the state's same-sex marriage law filed a similar lawsuit challenging DOMA.

Also in July, a Washington, DC law took effect that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states or jurisdictions. Currently, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts all allow same-sex marriage.

(Published by Jurist - September 16, 2009)

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