Evan Wolfson Testifies at First-Ever Congressional Hearing On Repeal of Marriage Discrimination Law

7/20/2011

Press contact:
Jackie Yodashkin
Communications Director, Freedom to Marry
jackie@freedomtomarry.org
917-620-4502

(WASHINGTON, DC) – At today’s US Senate Judiciary Committee’s first-ever hearing on repealing the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” Freedom to Marry founder and President Evan Wolfson called on Congress to put an end to the discriminatory law and return the federal government to its appropriate role of respecting marriages performed in the states. 

The Respect for Marriage Act, sponsored by Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Nadler (D-NY), would repeal DOMA, which treats married same-sex couples as legal strangers in the eyes of the federal government and denies them more than 1,000 federal protections related to marriage.  The hearing came just four days before same-sex couples begin marrying in New York State.

Testifying before a panel of Senators and a crowded hearing room, Wolfson noted that fifteen years earlier, he was in a Hawaii courtroom representing couples seeking the freedom to marry in the historic case that launched the global marriage movement, as Congress was enacting the discriminatory federal law.  He told the Senators:

“DOMA stigmatizes people by dividing those married at the state level into first-class marriages and second-class marriages for those the federal government doesn’t like. But in America, we don’t have second-class citizens, and we shouldn’t have second-class marriages either.”

“This Sunday, many will watch as joyous couples in New York State declare their love and have their commitment confirmed by the state. Yet as they join in marriage, these couples will experience first-hand the sting of discrimination by the federal government. They will endure the intangible yet very real pain of being branded a second-class citizen, and suffer the tangible harm of being excluded from the safety-net of protections and responsibilities that other married couples cherish.”

“It is time for Congress to end this discrimination. It is time to pass the Respect for Marriage Act.”

Ron Wallen testified about the harm DOMA has inflicted on him after the death of his spouse. Wallen married his partner of 58 years, Tom Carrollo, in California before the freedom to marry was stripped away by Proposition 8. Carrollo died in March 2011. Because DOMA denies him access to the Social Security Survivor benefit, Wallen can no longer afford to live in the home he shared with his husband and, as a result, he is rushing to sell the home even as he answers condolence cards. Here are excerpts from his remarks:

“Tom and I played by the rules, as we pursued our own version of the American dream. We served our country; we paid our taxes; we volunteered; we maintained our home, and got married as soon as we were legally able to do so.”  

“And yet, as I face a future without my spouse, it is hard to accept that it is the federal government that is throwing me out of my family home. Congress can fix this problem by repealing DOMA. It’s a discriminatory law against gay and lesbian couples who have assumed all the responsibilities of marriage. All we ask is to be treated fairly, just like other loving and committed married couples. I beg you to repeal this law.”

WITNESSES AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS:

Evan Wolfson: President, Freedom to Marry; Lawyer and Expert Witness
Follow this link to view Wolfson’s full testimony
:http://freedomtomarry.org/WolfsonTestimony

Ron Wallen: Denied Social Security Survivor Benefits, Losing Home After Death of Husband
Follow this link to view a video about Wallen’s story
: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHeyjY2pJCY&feature=channel_video_title

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Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.