Solmonese, Wolfson To Testify At Senate DOMA Hearing

Author: Chris Johnson
Publication: Washington Blade
Publication Date: July 14th, 2011

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Two prominent voices in the LGBT rights movement — Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese and Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson — will be among the witnesses who’ll testify at an upcoming Senate hearing on repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which will be the first congressional hearing against DOMA, will take place on Wednesday. The hearing is set to begin at 10 am in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The hearing is intended to highlight the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the committee, is a co-sponsor of the legislation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who’s also on the committee, is lead sponsor.

According to a notice from the committee, Solmonese and Wolfson will testify in addition to individuals who are in or were in same-sex marriages. These unions have been affected by DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Republican witnesses are also expected testify at the hearing, but they have yet to be named. Presumably, these witnesses would speak out against DOMA repeal.

The named witnesses who were in or are in same-sex marriages are:


* Susan Murray, who lives in Ferrisburgh, Vt., with her spouse, Karen Murray. An attorney with the Burlington office of Langrock, Sperry & Wool, Murray was the co-counsel in the lawsuit Baker v. Vermont, which established civil unions in Vermont in 2000.

* Andrew Sorbo, a Cheshire, Conn., resident who was married to Colin Atterbury. Before dying of pancreatic cancer in 2009, Atterbury was a retired Veterans Affairs hospital administrator and professor of medicine at Yale University. Sorbo, now retired, worked for 35 years as a history teacher and principal.

* Ron Wallen, an Indio, Calif. resident, who married Tom Carrollo in 2008 after being together for 55 years. In March, Carrollo lost his battle to cancer. After Carrollo’s death, Wallen’s income was compromised because DOMA prohibits him from receiving his spouse’s Social Security payment. Wallen would have been able to receive these payments had he been in an opposite-sex marriage. According to the hearing notice, Wallen is unable to make payments on his family home and is faced with selling the residence, after just losing his spouse.

UPDATE: Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and original co-sponsor of DOMA repeal legislation, is set to chair the second panel at the hearing in which Solmonese and Wolfson are expected to testify.

“The Defense of Marriage Act is a discriminatory law that deserves to be repealed,” Coons said in a statement. “This hearing is important. It will study the impact DOMA has had on American families and I’m humbled that Chairman Leahy asked me to play such a substantial role in it. I look forward to exploring DOMA’s effects with our invited witnesses and helping to move the Respect for Marriage Act forward.”