|The Respect for Marriage Act, which will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.
After about two hours of discussion, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 along party lines to approve the â€śRespect for Marriage Act,â€ť which would repeal the â€śDefense of Marriage Actâ€ť (also known as â€śDOMAâ€ť) of 1996 that banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage. In addition to repealing DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act would add a provision in law to guarantee that the federal government would recognize the marriage of any couple â€śvalid in the state where the marriage was entered intoâ€ť - even if the couple moves to a state where the marriage is not recognized.
â€śThis historic vote moves us one step closer to doing away with the injustice of the Defense of Marriage Act,â€ť said Equality California Chair Clarissa Filgioun. â€śEach day that loving, committed same-sex couples in this country are denied the freedom to marry, these couples and their families experience real harms that can have devastating consequences.â€ť She emphasized, â€śItâ€™s time for Congress to end this cruel exclusion and ensure that all couples who have made a commitment to care for one another and share their lives together are treated with dignity and respect.â€ť
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, â€śWe thank the members of the Judiciary Committee who stood up for LGBT families and particularly thank Chairman Leahy and Senator Feinstein for their leadership in fighting this unjust law.â€ť He added, â€śIt was a huge step in our fight to end this discriminatory law.â€ť He noted that just before the debate, HRC hand-delivered 135,000 petitions calling for repeal.
It is no surprise that every committee Democrat favored appeal, and every Republican opposed it. This means that the only immediate effect is political, whereby Democrats can show part of their liberal base of backers that they strongly support equality in federal benefits for gay couples.
The repeal bill would need 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, and unfortunately sponsors acknowledged the votes simply are not there, according to an AP report. It is a given that the measure would have no chance in the House, as it is firmly controlled by conservative Republicans.
â€śThousands of American families are now being treated unfairly by their federal government [because of DOMA],â€ť said the committee chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat. â€śThey are shunted aside - singled out from all other marriages recognized by their states.â€ť
Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committeeâ€™s top Republican, countered that it is â€śsimply wrong to claim that the bill would create federal benefits for all lawfully married couples.â€ť He added, â€śIn reality, it would create federal benefits for many same-sex couples who are not lawfully married.â€ť
Grassley said he was referring to the repeal billâ€™s federal recognition of a same-sex marriage, even if the legally married couple moves to a state where gay marriage is illegal.
The Respect for Marriage Act main sponsor, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said DOMA â€śis discriminatory and should be stricken.â€ť She said many businesses have supported repeal because they need to maintain a separate set of books when calculating health and retirement benefits.
Senator John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada, â€śhas no intention of bringing this bill up this year or next,â€ť because Sen. Reid â€śwould face a revolution in his own caucusâ€ť if he followed through.
Cornyn argued that the Democrats were only trying to satisfy their gay marriage supporters for the 2012 election.
Prior to the vote, Leahy had defended the timing, emphasizing, â€śIt is never the wrong time to right an injustice.â€ť
Majority Whip Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois, had voted for DOMA in 1996. But now he says he was wrong and does support the Respect for Marriage Act. â€śIf this is brought to the floor, and only the 30 cosponsors vote for it, it is worth it,â€ť he concluded.
AP said it is likely that the issue will be debated right up to the 2012 elections, while challenges to the law take place in several federal appeals courts. Conservatives pledged to make it a top agenda issue after President Barack Obama decided in February that his administration would cease to defend the law. After the Act passed the committee, a spokesman for Obama stated, â€śThe President has long believed that DOMA is discriminatory and has called for its repeal. We should all work towards taking this law off the books. The federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections afforded to straight couples.â€ť
The bill now goes to the full Senate.