Senate Judiciary Committee begins mark-up on Respect for Marriage Act today

Scroll to the end of the post for an update from today's Judiciary Committee meeting. 

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin mark-up and debate on the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that will overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. The mark-up will allow members of the committee to offer amendments and debate the bill, but it's expected that amendments and debate won't begin until next week at the earliest. Late Wednesday afternoon, Senator Feinstein, the author and lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate, told the Washington Blade yesterday that she expects substantive action on the Respect for Marriage Act to be put off until next week.

Today we can expect to hear opening statements from committee members. The good news is, as we've mentioned before, all 10 Democrats on the committee are already cosponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act. While we're hopeful that the bill will pass out of committee with no changes, we'll be on the lookout for any harmful amendments that may arise.

Our Founder and President Evan Wolfson released this statement early Thursday morning:

“Today is an important milestone in the effort to restore federal respect and recognition for all marriages legally sanctioned by the states – including those of the hundreds of thousands of loving, committed gay and lesbian couples around the nation,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry.  “As the Senate Judiciary Committee considers this bill, we urge members to take into account the myriad of harms their constituents face because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and consider the stories of people like Tom Wallen [link to Tom’s story], who just weeks after losing his husband and partner of 58 years had to put the family home up for sale because he was denied Social Security survivor benefits.   It is past time to put an end to this cruel, discriminatory law.”  

Freedom to Marry has played a leading role in lobbying lawmakers and organizing constituent contacts in order to boost the number of cosponsors on the Respect for Marriage Act, which now has record support in both the Senate and the House.  Since its introduction, cosponsors have grown from 18 to 30 in the Senate and 108 to 130 in the House. Yesterday, Freedom to Marry along with Courage Campaign and Equality Pennsylvania delivered thousands of signatures to Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania in our most recent campaign urging elected officials to support the bill. 

Our Federal Director Jo Deutsch will be on hand for the committee meeting today and will keep us updated as the mark-up progresses. 

Now is a great opportunity for marriage supporters around the country to make their voices heard. Click here to ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act.

Be sure to follow along with us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest from Capitol Hill.

----UPDATE: 10:47 AM----

Day one of the committee's mark-up on the Respect for Marriage Act is finished, and there isn't anything too shocking to report. Most notably, Senator Grassley requested that debate be held over until next week, which means that amendments, debate, and a vote on DOMA repeal should happen next Thursday.

Senator Feinstein gave a moving opening statement, pointing to the concrete ways that DOMA has harmed real families across the country. Senators Leahy and Schumer also spoke briefly, and echoed Senator Feinstein in calling for a long overdue end to federal marriage discrimination. 

Debate will resume next Thursday. In the meantime, we'll keep you updated of any harmful amendments that may be offered to the bill.