Defense of Marriage Act Under Fire

Aug 8, 2012 by

A New York Congressman plans to introduce a bill in Congress that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), or at least repeal the part of the Act that denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages in the United States today. It is uncertain whether or not Congressman Jerry Nadler’s bill would tackle repeal of the entire DOMA or just the part of the Act that addresses federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

The Act now states that the U.S. government does not recognize same-sex marriages but does allow individual states the right to legislate how they define marriage. By refusing recognition, the Act denies same-sex couples the myriad rights that all married couples in the United States currently enjoy, including the ability to collect Social Security payments after the death of a spouse.  The Act currently permits states to choose not to recognize same-sex marriages, even those recognized by other states. Nadler’s proposed repeal might not take on the entire DOMA and instead may only challenge Section 2, which is the specific portion of the bill that denies recognition of same-sex marriages. Proponents of Nadler’s legislation have said they feel passage of a bill that repeals only the federal same-sex marriage ban would be easier than attacking the entire DOMA all at once. Choosing to repeal only Section 2 of the Act would continue to allow individual states to define marriage within their own borders.

The DOMA was originally signed into law under former President Bill Clinton, however Clinton as well as current President Obama have both recently spoken in favor of repealing the legislation. The Department of Justice defended the DOMA in the first months of 2009, but appears less willing to do so now. At this point it is fairly certain that Nadler will introduce his bill, but it remains to be seen whether or not his legislation will pass the House and if the President will actually sign it.

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