Senate Begins Mark Up on Respect for Marriage Act

11/3/2011

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

Washington, D.C. -- Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin debate on the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598), the bill that would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.  In July, the committee held its first-ever hearing on the bill, where witnesses harmed by the discriminatory law and experts including Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson testified on the hardship DOMA inflicts on same-sex couples and their families.

“Today is another step toward restoration of the traditional practice of having the federal government respect marriages lawfully celebrated  by the states – and eliminating the gay exception that unfairly denies that equal treatment to loving and committed couples who have gotten legally married,” 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 real harms families face because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and the burdens this departure from the usual way the federal government honors marriages imposes on businesses, employers, and others dealing with married couples.”

Wolfson pointed to the July testimony of Ron Wallen, 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 time for Congress to repeal this cruel, discriminatory law, and not wait for the courts to clean up the mess Congress created,” Wolfson said.

DOMA was passed in 1996 when gay couples could not yet marry anywhere in the world and deprives same-sex couples of federal recognition of their marriages, denying them important federal protections such as access to health coverage, Social Security survivor benefits, tax fairness, and recognition of family ties for immigration purposes.  DOMA is being challenged in several court cases around the country, and has been held unconstitutional in federal district courts on both sides of the country.

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

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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.