Senate Committee Votes to Repeal Discriminatory “Defense of Marriage Act”

11/10/2011

Wolfson cites “real progress…accelerating momentum”

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

Washington, D.C. -- Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to repeal the 1996 so-called Defense of Marriage Act, advancing the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598) in the U.S. Senate.

“Today’s vote represents real progress toward a repudiation of the radically unfair, misnamed Defense of Marriage Act,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry.  “We are one step closer to eliminating DOMA’s gay exception, which unfairly withholds the federal protections and responsibilities of marriage from loving and committed same-sex couples who are legally married.” 

The committee held its first-ever hearing on the bill in July, when witnesses harmed by the discriminatory law and experts including Wolfson testified on the hardship DOMA inflicts on same-sex couples and their families.   

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 restore the tradition of having the federal government respect marriages lawfully celebrated by the states, and not wait for the courts to clean up the mess Congress created,” Wolfson said. 

Through its new federal program and DC presence, Freedom to Marry has played a leading role working with senators and committee staff to ensure today’s successful vote.   Freedom to Marry’s bipartisan lobby team has made the case for the Respect for Marriage Act to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and has partnered with state equality organizations and others to organize constituents to weigh in with lawmakers in their districts.  As a result, since its introduction, the number of sponsors has grown from 19 to 31 in the Senate and 109 to 133 in the House, including a solid majority of Democrats in both branches and the first Republican in the House.   

“The historic growth in support among lawmakers for repealing DOMA mirrors the growth in public support for the freedom to marry to what is now a solid majority nationwide,” said Wolfson.  “With businesses and labor unions, Democrats and Republicans, child-welfare advocates and libertarians all decrying the unfairness of DOMA, every day adds to the accelerating momentum for overturning federal marriage discrimination.”  

Earlier this year, Freedom to Marry launched the Respect for Marriage Coalition to make the case with lawmakers, the DC press corps, and political operatives in both parties about the political and moral case for repealing DOMA and supporting the freedom to marry.  With the Human Rights Campaign as Freedom to Marry’s co-chair, the Coalition now has 37 organizational partners.

DOMA was approved 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.    

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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.