Freedom to Marry on Congressional Hearing on “Defending Marriage”

Today, the Subcommittee on the Constitution for the House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing focused on “defending marriage.”  Below is a statement from Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry, on the harms of so-called “Defense of Marriage Act”:

“Loving and committed gay and lesbian couples marry for a mix of reasons similar to those of other couples, but unlike different-sex couples, same-sex couples are denied federal respect for their marriages, and the 1000+ federal legal consequences of marriage, because of the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act.’  Rather than treating the marriages of same-sex couples the same as any other, DOMA creates a ‘gay exception,’ denying thousands of couples legally married in their own states the dignity and support that only marriage brings and effectively treats couples, some of whom have been together for decades, as strangers under the law.

“Today, Tax Day, is a perfect example of just how confusing DOMA can be, not just for gay and lesbian couples, but for government workers.  The ombudsman of the IRS himself has said that DOMA creates a ‘ridiculously complex’ situation in which the agency does not have the capacity to educate its staff on how to counsel the tens of thousands of legally married same-sex couples who have to file three or more different sets of taxes.  Why should any couple have to struggle to protect their families when the government officials in charge admit they can’t figure it out, and when the simple answer is already there in the law applied to everyone else: equal respect for marriage?

“When DOMA was stampeded through in 1996, only 26% of Americans supported the freedom to marry and same-sex couples couldn’t marry anywhere in the world.  In the 15 years since, as tens of thousands of same-sex couples have legally married in five states, the District of Columbia, and twelve countries on four continents, public support for the freedom to marry has more than doubled, with the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll showing a 53% majority.  Bob Barr, the Republican Congressman who wrote DOMA, and Bill Clinton, the Democratic President who signed it, have repudiated DOMA and called for its overturning, and members of Congress who voted for DOMA are now co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill introduced to repeal the discriminatory law, as President Obama has called for.

“It is time to end DOMA’s ‘gay exception’ and put the federal government on the side of families, respecting marriage, providing clarity for businesses, and removing barriers in these tough economic times.”