Groups Launch Campaign Urging Senators Lieberman & Collins to Co-Sponsor Respect for Marriage Act

11/16/2011

Press Contacts:
Angela Dallara, Freedom to Marry, Angela@freedomtomarry.org, 646-430-3925
Ana Beatriz Cholo, Courage Campaign, anabeatriz@couragecampaign.org, 312-927-4845
Ali Vander Zanden, EqualityMaine, avanderzanden@equalitymaine.org, 207-590-2299
Shenna Bellows, American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, sbellows@aclumaine.org, 207-776-5404
Carisa Cunningham, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, ccunningham@glad.org, 617-426-1350

(Washington D.C., November 16, 2011) – Today, seven state and national organizations announced a joint campaign urging Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to sign on as co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that would overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This campaign follows a successful campaign in Maryland to get Senator Barbara Mikulski to become a co-sponsor of the Act and current campaigns in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania urging Senators Jack Reed and Robert Casey to become co-sponsors.

The groups, which include Freedom to Marry, Courage Campaign, EqualityMaine, the Maine Women’s Lobby, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, issued the following joint statement:

“Senator Lieberman and Senator Collins have both consistently served as leaders on crucial legislation advancing equality for gay and lesbian people in the past, and ending the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act should be no exception. Because of their leadership in ending military discrimination, gay and lesbian service members may now openly serve our country; yet as a result of DOMA, they continue to be discriminated against, leaving service members and their families vulnerable even as they put their lives on the line to protect our country. Gay and lesbian couples in Connecticut, Maine, and across the country who have legally married are unfairly denied the critical safety-net of protections marriage provides. We urge both Senator Lieberman and Senator Collins to continue to stand on the right side of history and co-sponsor the landmark Respect for Marriage Act.”

The groups will collect signatures from a variety of constituents across Connecticut and Maine. Connecticut extended the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples in 2008 and is currently home to thousands of married same-sex couples. In 2009, Maine voters narrowly overturned the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples after the state legislature passed a marriage bill earlier that year, but the state does recognize domestic partnerships and is home to hundreds of couples who have gotten legally married in other states.  Advocates in Maine are planning to take marriage to the ballot in Maine to win back the freedom to marry.  

Senators Lieberman and Collins spearheaded the repeal of military discrimination under the so-called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in 2010. Accordingly, the letters emphasize the harms DOMA continues to cause military service members. The letters read:

Due in large part to your leadership in repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, gay and lesbian service members can now serve openly in our armed forces. However, in the wake of the historic repeal of DADT, gay and lesbian service members now represent a new wave of Americans who are harmed by federal marriage discrimination. Families of gay and lesbian service members are denied critical protections like on-base housing and health care coverage.

Senators Collins and Lieberman both voted against constitutional amendments in 2004 and 2006 that would have banned marriages for gay and lesbian couples, and both also co-sponsored the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, which ensured benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. Both have also supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Additionally, Senator Lieberman voted in 2009 to include sexual orientation as a protected category in the definition of a hate crime, while Collins has been honored by the Log Cabin Republicans and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund for her commitment to equality for gay and lesbian people.

There are now a record number of supporters in both the House, where the bill has 133 sponsors, and in the Senate, with 31 sponsors, including every Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which last Thursday voted to advance the Respect for Marriage Act to the full Senate.

The campaign will run for the next two weeks, and groups will deliver signatures to each of the Senators’ offices in December.

***

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.

Courage Campaign is a multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to work for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country.  

EqualityMaine works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Maine through political action, education, and collaboration.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine (ACLU-ME) is a non-partisan organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT) is a nonpartisan, non-profit membership organization whose mission is to assure that the Bill of Rights and the rights guaranteed by the Connecticut Constitution are preserved for each new generation. The ACLU-CT accomplishes these goals through legislative advocacy, litigation, grassroots organizing and public education on a broad array of issues affecting our liberties. 
 
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England's leading legal organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.  

The Maine Women’s Lobby is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, membership organization working since 1978 to increase opportunities for women and girls through advocacy and legislative action.