Respect for Marriage Act
On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, taking the first step toward dismantling the 1996 law that for 16 years has mandated unequal federal treatment of legally married same-sex couples, selectively depriving them of more than 1,100 protections and responsibilities that marriage triggers at the federal level.
DOMA, enacted in 1996, forces the federal government to deny important protections to married same-sex couples, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights, family and medical leave, and the ability to pool resources as a family without unfair taxation.
Striking down Section 3 of DOMA, achieved through a victory in the Supreme Court case Windsor v. United States, was the first step in returning the federal government to its longstanding practice of honoring marriage without a "gay exception." Ending federal marriage discrimination is a key part of Freedom to Marry's three-track Roadmap to Victory, which also includes winning marriage in more states and growing and diversifying the majority for marriage.
To fully overturn DOMA and end federal marriage discrimination, we must pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which was introduced on June 26, 2013, just hours after the victory in the Windsor case. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced S. 1236 in the Senate with 41 cosponsors, and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced H.R. 2523 with 161 cosponsors. It is only with the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act that DOMA's discriminatory language will be permanently removed from the U.S. statutes and we will ensure certainty regardless of where a legally married same-sex couple lives.
Now, the Respect for Marriage Act has 44 cosponsors in the Senate and 172 cosponsors in the House.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which parts of DOMA did the June 2013 Supreme Court ruling overturn?
The Windsor case challenged the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA, which discriminatorily excluded married same-sex couples from federal protections, responsibilities, and programs.
Section 2 of DOMA, however, which says that states may discriminate against same-sex couples legally married in other states, still stands. Through the Respect for Marriage Act, we must overturn Section 2, although removing Section 2 will not eliminate discriminatory state marriage laws.
Passing the Respect for Marriage Act will ensure that all married couples – including same-sex couples – enjoy equal protections under federal law and permanently remove DOMA’s discriminatory language from U.S. statutes.
What are Freedom to Marry’s 2013 goals for the work on Capitol Hill and the Respect for Marriage Act?
Freedom to Marry has 4 overarching goals for our federal program:
- Elevate the marriage conversation in federal circles to empower decision-makers;
- Advance the Respect for Marriage Act to fully overturn DOMA;
- Use federal work to synergize and stimulate nationally, to win more states and to grow and diversify the majority of Americans who support the freedom to marry through our Congressional work; work with allies and the Respect for Marriage Coalition, and galvanize support for Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry and Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.
- Work with the Obama Administration to implement the Supreme Court decision to overturn Section 3 of DOMA.
Has President Obama endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act?
On July 19, 2011, President Barack Obama endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, several months after the Administration announced that it would stop defending DOMA in court because it is unconstitutional.
In May 2012, President Obama completed his journey and joined the majority of Americans in fully embracing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. President Obama’s announcement came after the launch of Freedom to Marry’s Say ‘I Do’ campaign, an open letter signed by civil rights leaders, tech entrepreneurs, professional athletes, Hollywood celebrities, and more than 120,000 Americans urging the president to support marriage for same-sex couples.
How has support for the Respect for Marriage Act increased since its initial introduction?
Over the past two years, Freedom to Marry’s bipartisan federal team has held more than 100 meetings with Congressmembers and their staffs on why DOMA hurts same-sex couples and their families and why we must pass the Respect for Marriage Act. 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.
As a result of this work, Freedom to Marry and our partners have grown support for the legislation on Capitol Hill from 18 U.S. Senators and 108 U.S. Representatives at the time of the bills’ introduction in 2011 to 42 U.S. Senators and 172 U.S. Representatives today.
- Full text of the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 2523) and (S. 1236)
- Respect for Marriage Act Factsheet
- House Cosponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, H.R. 2523
- Senate Cosponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, S. 1236
- Metro Weekly's Series on the history, circumstances, and politics that led to the passage of DOMA in 1996. (Part 1), (Part 2), and (Part 3)