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Religious Tolerance logo

Attempt to repeal the federal "Defense of marriage act" (DOMA)

2011-JUL-20: Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

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This is a continuation of an earlier essay

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Recent developments concerning DOMA:

  • Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) who was a main promoter of DOMA in 1996 has called for its repeal.

  • Former president Bill Clinton who signed the DOMA bill into law has also called for its repeal.

  • President Barack Obama formally announced his endorsement for the repeal of DOMA on JUL-19.

  • Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) had voted for DOMA in 1996, but now realizes that he was wrong.

  • When DOMA was signed into law in 1996, 75% of American adults opposed SSM, This year, multiple opinion polls have shown that about 53% of American adults support SSM. The margin between support and opposition to SSM is about 8 percentage points and is rapidly increasing.

  • Most registered Republicans under 45 years-of-age support SSM. 1

  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chaired the hearing into the "Respect for Marriage Act." Its plurpose was to assess the impact that DOMA has on American families.

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C-span video of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing 2
2 hours, 34 minutes.

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2011-JUL-20: Comments on the hearing by author E.J. Graff:

"Witnesses at today's hearing included men and women whose same-sex marriages -- valid in their home states of California, Connecticut, or Vermont -- are not recognized for federal purposes, because of DOMA. As a result, they face the insults and injuries of nearly losing a house because they can't receive a dead husband's pension, or having their financial security eroded by being taxed thousands of dollars if they are listed on a wife's health insurance policy."

"Witnesses also included advocates who gave their stump speeches:

  • The 'preserve marriage' advocates, who predicted that this bill would lead to polygamy, incest, the deterioration of marriage as an institution, and disastrous consequences for children;

  • The 'end marriage discrimination' advocates, who talked about equality and justice under the law and about equal protections for children who grow up in families headed by either different-sex or same-sex pairs.

Except for the fact that some of the witnesses were talking about lawfully recognized same-sex spouses, no one said anything very different from what was being said 15 years ago, when DOMA was passed. ..."

"Democratic Senators and Representatives discussed how DOMA harms same-sex couples and their children. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) asked Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign how DOMA encourages anti-gay bullying which sometimes triggers teen suicide. Senators from states that have legalized same-sex marriages (SSMs) asked that DOMA be repealed so that their states' decisions would be respected by the federal government. Some senators talked about how lesbian and gay veterans are unable to leave their veterans' pensions to their spouses or to protect them with other..." [VA programs.] 

"And in perhaps the one entertaining moment of the hearings, Sen. Al Franken slapped down one witness, Thomas Minnery of Focus on the Family, for saying that 'mountains' of evidence shows that children do best with married heterosexual parents. Franken said he'd looked at the study Minnery cited, and it didn't say anything about the parents needing to be of different sexes.

"That shored up the credibility of Evan Wolfson, founding director of the national group Freedom to Marry, who noted that every major public health and child welfare group endorsed same-sex marriage, specifically because it would help same-sex-headed families' children." 1

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Comments on the hearing by Zach Duffy of Campus Progress:

  • Rep John Lewis (D-GA) said that DOMA:

    "... is a stain on our democracy. It reminds me of another dark time in our nation's history, the many years when states passed laws banning blacks and whites from marrying. When people used to ask Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. about interracial marriage, he would say, 'Races do not fall in love and get married. Individuals fall in love and get married.'  Marriage is a basic human right." 3

  • "Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Steve King (R-IA) were the only elected officials to speak in defense of the law."

  • "Opponents of same-sex marriage included Focus on the Family’s Thomas Minnery, who claimed that a 2010 Department of Health and Human Services study found that children are healthier and more successful when raised by married heterosexual parents. But Senator Al Franken (D-MN) followed up his testimony by introducing the study into the record and pointing out that it focused on children raised in 'nuclear families,' making no mention of sexual orientation [or gender makeup of the parents]. 'I frankly don't really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies this way,” Franken told Minnery. 3

The conflict between Minnery and Franken apparently arose because of a different interpretation of the term "nuclear family:"

  • Minnery interpreted it as referring to a father, mother, and one or more children. His definition might have been partly determined by a refusal to regard a family led by a same-sex couple as a valid family.

  • Franken interpreted it as referring to two adults and one or more children.

  • The definition used by the report itself agreed with Franken's interpretation.

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Discussion of this topic continues

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. E.J. Graff, "15 Years After DOMA, Hearing Reveals a Nation Transformed," The Atlantic, 2011-JUL-20, at:
  2. "Repeal of Defense of Marriage Act; Senate Committee Judiciary," C-Span, 2011-JUL-20, at:
  3. Zach Duffy, "Defense of Marriage Act faces critics in Congressional hearing," Campus Progress, 2011-JUL-22, at:
  4. LGBTQNation, "Franken busts 'Focus on the Family' for lying about federal study in DOMA hearing," You Tube, 2011-JUL-22, at:

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Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > SSM > SSM menu > DOMA > Repeal > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > SSM > SSM menu > DOMA > Repeal > here

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Copyright © 2010 & 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-AUG-20
Latest update: 2011-SEP-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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