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Breaking: Senate Judiciary Committee gives thumbs up to DOMA repeal legislation

Just in: from the Washington Blade:

A Senate committee took historic action on Thursday against the Defense of Marriage Act by approving legislation that would lift the anti-gay law from the books.

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported the legislation to the floor by a vote of 10-8 along a party-line basis. Each of the 10 Democrats on the panel voted in favor of the legislation, while all 8 Republicans present opposed it.

The committee vote marks the first-time ever that any component of Congress has voted to repeal DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, since it was first enacted in 1996.

Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in his opening statement said legislation to repeal DOMA, which is known as the Respect for Marriage Act, is necessary because “thousands of American families are now being treated unfairly by their federal government.”

“They are shunted aside — singled out from all other marriages recognized by their states,” Leahy said. “This unfairness must end. The Respect for Marriage Act would provide for the equal treatment of all lawful treatment of all lawful marriages in this country by repealing DOMA.”

Other report to check out – Chris Geidner, MetroWeekly: Senate Judiciary Committee Meets, Passes DOMA Repeal Bill Out of Committee.

From Igor Volsky at Think Progress LGBT, the roll call:

Some early reactions from the LGBT community are below the fold.

White House statement from spokesman Shin Inouye:

President Obama applauds today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, which would provide a legislative repeal of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act.”  The 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.

The Courage Campaign:

“For the first time in history, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to make gays and lesbians whole people,” said Rick Jacobs, the chair and founder of the Courage Campaign, an online, grassroots political organization with more than 750,000 members around the country. “This truly historic vote today should never have been necessary because this absurd law should never have been on the books. Thanks to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, we have a bill that can move to the Senate floor where fair-minded people who believe in a nation united, not divided, can end federal discrimination against gay and lesbian couples legally married in six states and the District of Columbia. Sadly, the Republicans think this is a partisan issue, but then some thought the same about the other great civil rights issues of this nation. Eventually, America is just.”

Freedom To Marry:


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.”

Log Cabin Republicans:

Log Cabin Republicans statement on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, which if passed would repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage” Act and permit the federal government to recognize legally sanctioned same-sex relationships in the states.

“Today’s hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee makes clear what we already knew – that while the nation is fast approaching a tipping point in favor of respecting all marriages, we are not there yet,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. “There is much work to be done before we cross the finish line. Today’s hearing was a principled discussion about the meaning of federalism, the priorities of our nation in a challenging time, and what marriage means in America today. Passing the Respect for Marriage Act will require determined and strategic outreach to leaders on both sides of the aisle, and the courageous leadership of more Republicans like Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who has already signed on to DOMA repeal. More than that, it will require gay and lesbian Americans in lawmakers’ home districts speaking out about their families, their commitment to one another as spouses, and the shared values that make marriage important to us all. More than any hearing, these kitchen table conversations will move us toward the day when all married couples are treated equally under the law.”

Human Rights Campaign:

“Today’s vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee puts us one step closer to ending federal marriage discrimination,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We 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.”

…“With marriage equality a reality in six states and the District of Columbia, state leaders in both parties are finding it strengthens families,” said Solmonese. “DOMA is government-sanctioned discrimination, which causes real harm.  We call on the United States Senate to rid our nation of this law.”

DOMA prevents any of the over 1,100 federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage from being afforded to legally married same-sex couples.  These include Social Security survivors benefits, federal employee health benefits for spouses, protections against spouses losing their homes in cases of severe medical emergencies, the right to sponsor a foreign born spouse for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave and the ability to file joint tax returns, among many others.  51 percent of voters oppose DOMA while only 34 percent favor it, according to a March 2011 poll.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“This vote marks an important step toward recognizing our common humanity, and moves us closer to ending a grave injustice against thousands of loving, committed couples who simply want to provide and care for each other as other married couples are allowed to do. It is shocking and an outrage that, in modern-day America, legally married same-sex couples are being singled out and selectively denied fundamental rights by their own federal government. The Respect for Marriage Act respects and protects the rights of these couples to live free of this government-sponsored discrimination. We thank the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing this bill today, and urge the full Senate to follow suit. DOMA has only served to hurt families, and it is long past time to wipe it from the books once and for all.”

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

This is a major step forward to end the discrimination that is currently enshrined into U.S. law, and I applaud Chairman Leahy for pushing us forward.

“Marriage is the true foundation for strong families. Every loving, committed couple deserves the basic human right to get married, start a family, and have access to all the same rights and privileges that my husband and I enjoy. No politician should stand in the way of this fact.

“If Democrats and Republicans can come together to do what’s right in New York, I know we can do the same in Congress to do what’s right for all of America. Now is the time to act on the federal level.”

Senator Gillibrand is an original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which was authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and co-sponsored by Senators Leahy (D-Vt.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Daniel Akaka(D-Hawaii).


“Today’s vote is an important step forward for the over 80,000 married same-sex couples across the country,” said Ian Thompson, ACLU legislative representative. “These couples have made the commitment at the heart of marriage, and exchanged vows under state law.  For the federal government to exclude them from all federal protections for their marriage is unjust, unnecessary and unconstitutional. It’s time for Congress to join the president and the Department of Justice in rejecting this discriminatory law.”

“I shared my life with my beloved late spouse in sickness and in health for 44 years, like any other devoted, married couple,” Windsor explained. “In the midst of coping with Thea’s death, it is hard to describe how painful it was for my own government to treat me as though we were mere strangers and not spouses. Losing a spouse is obviously a terrible thing for anyone to experience — Congress should pass this bill to prevent others from having to go through what I had to deal with.”

To read the ACLU’s letter to the committee supporting the Respect for Marriage Act, go here:


Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

“At SLDN, we are pleased to see the Respect for Marriage Act move forward in Congress.  Repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is a cornerstone of the work that remains to finish the job of bringing about full LGBT equality in the military.  Whether it’s defeated in the courts or repealed by Congress, SLDN will not rest until this discriminatory law is history.” said Sarvis.


National Center for Lesbian Rights

Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq.:

“The long overdue Respect for Marriage Act will correct a shameful low-point in our history that was reached during a moment of bigotry. Congress must pass the Respect for Marriage Act, taking us one step closer to the day when all families can have the dignity, respect, and equality that has been denied to them under DOMA.”


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding