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DOMA Repeal Advances in the Senate

DOMA Repeal Advances in the Senate

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to move forward a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The committee voted 10-8 along party lines in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act. Its prospects on the Senate floor remain unknown. Introduced in the Senate in March by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the bill currently has 30 cosponsors.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to move forward a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

The committee voted 10-8 along party lines in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act. Its prospects on the Senate floor remain unknown. Introduced in the Senate in March by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the bill currently has 30 cosponsors.

In opening remarks, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said that as a result of DOMA, "thousands of American families are now being treated unfairly by the federal government. They are shunted aside — singled out from all other marriages recognized by the states."

But Republican senators including Ranking Member Chuck Grassley of Iowa criticized the intent of the legislation. He used common arguments against marriage rights for same-sex couples including concerns about child welfare — rhetoric discordant with the body of social science research.

As expected, there was no GOP support for the bill among committee members. Grassley said it was unlikely that the full senate has sufficient time to vote on the bill and doubted adequate support for the bill exists. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) concurred, and asserted in remarks that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has no intention of bringing the legislation to the floor in the current session.

A House version of the bill is not expected to move this session: Republican leadership continues to defend DOMA in multiple federal lawsuits following the Obama administration’s February announcement that it would no longer defend the law in court.

Passed in 1996 when no state or district had legalized marriage equality, DOMA prohibits recognition of legal same-sex marriages for federal purposes. The Respect for Marriage Act would amend federal code to read that an “individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.” (Text of the bill is here.)

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