Respect for Marriage Act Reintroduced in Congress to Repeal DOMA

Today, January 6, 2015, United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and United States Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that would fully repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and ensure that the federal government respects all valid marriages across every single federal agencies. The bill has 42 original cosponsors in the Senate (including every returning Senator to the 114th Congress who supported the bill in the past) and 78 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

Freedom to Marry federal director Jo Deutsch today highlighted the need for the Respect for Marriage, which would finish the job in ending federal marriage discrimination, which the U.S. Supreme Court took great strides to do in June 2013 by striking down the core of DOMA. Deutsch said:

The U.S. Supreme Court took a crucial step in dismantling the so-called Defense of Marriage Act last year, and the administration has implemented the ruling forcefully, but the job is not yet complete. The Respect for Marriage Act seeks to fix major gaps in federal protections for married couples, especially in social security and veterans’ benefits. We must keep working to end every vestige of federal marriage discrimination and send this mean-spirited law to the dustbin of history.

The reintroduction in the Senate includes two new cosponsors: incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI). The House bill has bipartisan support, while all of the cosponsors in the Senate are Democrats.

Legally married same-sex couples continue to suffer discrimination in the areas of Social Security and veterans’ benefits, which are determined by federal law based on whether the state in which they reside respects the marriage. If a same-sex couple is legally married but lives in or moves to a state that doesn’t respect the marriage, they cannot share in these programs. The Respect for Marriage Act fixes this inequity with a provision that requires the federal government to respect all legal marriages for the purposes of all federal programs. 

Since the first congressional introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act nearly four years ago, Freedom to Marry’s bipartisan federal team has lobbied congressmembers and their staffs in support of the freedom to marry and on why DOMA hurts same-sex couples and their families. Freedom to Marry also launched and co-chairs the Respect for Marriage Coalition, a coalition of more than 100 health, civil rights, labor, LGBT, and other organizations working to pass the bill and advance the freedom to marry.