Charging that the traditional definition of marriage is “discriminatory,” U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has announced that he will reintroduce a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). One critic of the measure is warning that it will lead to discrimation against those who support marriage between a man and a woman.
DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes and protects states that do not recognize same-sex “marriage” from being forced to do so. The Act was passed in 1996 by a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives of 342-67 and in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 85-14.
A September 15 statement from Rep. Nadler’s office characterized the legislation as one of the United States’ “most discriminatory laws,” accusing DOMA of singling out “legally married” same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment and denying them “critical” federal responsibilities and rights such as Social Security.
In its place, Rep. Nadler and 91 co-sponsors have proposed a “Respect for Marriage Act.” Rep. Nadler’s office said the act would repeal DOMA “in its entirety” but would only pertain to the recognition of marriage for the purposes of federal law.
It claims that marriage recognition under state law would continue to be decided by each state. However, it also claims to restore a historical approach of states determining whether to recognize a marriage under the principles of “comity” and “Full Faith and Credit.”
DOMA was passed in part because of concerns the “Full Faith and Credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution would force states to recognize homosexual “marriages” contracted in states which recognize the unions.
“In support of families throughout the nation, our legislation will extend to same-sex, legally married couples the same federal rights and recognition now offered to heterosexual married couples, nothing more, nothing less,” argued Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.
She said the repeal of DOMA was “a necessary step toward full equality for LGBT Americans.”
Rep. Nadler’s office said the legislation had been written with the cooperation of LGBT and civil rights “stakeholders and legislators.” The statement also noted that President Barack Obama has endorsed the repeal of DOMA on the grounds it is discriminatory and interferes with states’ rights.
However, a statement from the National Organization of Women criticized the Obama administration, saying the administration “strongly denounced and defended” DOMA.
“Rep. Nadler is doing what the Obama administration has failed to do: take a hard line on DOMA and say discrimination and bigotry do not belong in the law,” said NOW Executive Vice President Bonnie Grabenhofer.
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), criticized the effort to repeal DOMA.
“The citizens of 39 states have worked hard to pass legislation and constitutional amendments to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman,” she said. “DOMA ensures the integrity of our constitutional system and the will of Americans. DOMA reflects the reality that marriage provides unique benefits to individuals, children, and society which cannot be replicated by any other living arrangement.”
Wright remarked that the Defense of Marriage Act anticipated the “assault” that “homosexual activists” would inflict upon marriage, saying that the legislation honored “the will of the people.”
Shari Rendall, Director of Legislation and Public Policy at CWA, charged that homosexual activists and their congressional allies are making the “outrageous claim” that protecting marriage is a form of discrimination.
Rendall asserted that overturning marriage laws will result in “reverse discrimination” against those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman.