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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing (Continued)

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This is a continuation of an earlier essay

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Testimony by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) :

  • Senator Grassley strongly supports the continuation of DOMA. He said:

    "The bill before us today is entitled the Respect for Marriage Act. George Orwell would have marveled at the name. A bill to respect marriage would restore marriage as it has been known — as between one man and one woman. That is the view of marriage that I support. ..."

    "One of the witnesses before us today says DOMA was passed for only one reason — to express disapproval for gay and lesbian people. I know this to be false. Senators at the time … and representatives at the time … did not support DOMA to express disapproval of gay and lesbian people. Neither did I." 1

    Grassley also discussed a mystery witness who would not be appearing at the hearing. He said:

    "The minority very much hoped to call a witness today at this hearing to testify in support of DOMA, I’m sure she would have done an excellent job. She declined, however, citing one reason the threats and intimidation that have been leveled not only her but her friends and family as a result of her support of DOMA. She will continue to write on the issue but will no longer speak publicly." 2

    There was some speculation that the mystery witness was Maggie Gallagher, chairperson of the National Organization for Marriage. However, Ms. Gallagher said that: "He certainly was not referring to me. I was not asked this time, and certainly am not refusing Senate or public appearances." 2

  • Rep. King was the only other member of Congress to oppose the repeal of DOMA. He said:
    "DOMA was passed in 1996 because Congress and President Clinton understood that civil society has an interest in maintaining and protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage because it has a deep and abiding interest in encouraging responsible procreation and child-rearing."

    "The other side argues that you can’t choose who you love, and that a union between two men or two women is equal to that of one man and one woman. But these are the same arguments that could be used to promote marriage between fathers and daughters, mothers and sons or even polygamous relationships." 2

  • Rep. Nadler is one of the sponsors of the Respect for Marriage bill. He first commented about the fading support for DOMA in the country. Then he said:

    "DOMA's supporters still claim that the law should survive, and argue primarily that DOMA serves a legitimate interest in protecting the welfare of children by promoting an 'optimal' family structure -- one that consists of a married opposite-sex couple raising their biological children. But there is no credible support for the notion that children are better off with opposite-sex parents or that married gay and lesbian parents do not provide an equally loving, supportive, and wholesome environment." 3

References to "responsible procreation" and "biological children" relates to a recent assertion by religious and social conservatives that the only form of responsible parenting is for spouses to conceive children whose DNA is a combination of both spouses' DNA. This would imply that all other forms of procreation are irresponsible, such as by all same-sex couples, infertile opposite-sex couples who use artificial insemination, and couples who adopt children.

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Other testimony:

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy [D-VT] said, "I believe it is important that we encourage and sanction committed relationships."

  • Ronald Wallen, 77, described how DOMA robbed him of Social Security benefits after his husband died last March. The couple had spent 58 years together, and been married since 2008. He said:

    "... like any other married couple facing troubles, we were in it together. Tom didn't have leukemia; we ha leukemia. And as rotten as those [last] four years were, they were made ever so much easier because we had each other for comfort and love, and because we were married. ... It is devastating to know that any [opposite-sex] married couple in the U.S. regardless of how long they were married, can depend on the survivor's benefit. Yet, I could not -- after 58 years with my spouse -- simply because we were two married men. This is unfair and unjust. ... I am spending my days and nights sorting through our possessions, packing boxes to move -- even while I am still answering the condolence cards that come in the mail. ... I beg you to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow all married couples the same protection." 4

  • Rea Cary of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force submitted written testimony to the committee. She wrote, in part:
    "DOMA is one of the most discriminatory and farthest-reaching laws ever to emerge against our community. The law is grossly unjust and places significant harm on far too many families in our country. It is shocking that in 2011, legally married couples in the United States are being singled out and selectively denied fundamental rights by their own federal government. Too many have been hurt for too long because of DOMA, and its repeal is long overdue.

    The stories of hardship under this law are heartbreaking. With the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, Congress would begin to close this ugly chapter in our nation’s history. It would end an egregious injustice against thousands of loving, committed couples who simply want the protections, rights, and responsibilities already afforded other married couples. ...

    We at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, along with people all across the country — from every town and every background — recognize that our entire country benefits when everyone is allowed to contribute their talents and skills, free from discrimination. That’s why we urge the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act."

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Comments by R. Clarke Cooper of the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR):

The LCR initiated a successful lawsuit in federal court in California to have the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy declared unconstitutional. DADT prohibits LGBT persons from openly serving in the military. Cooper, who is the executive director of the LCR, suggested that an integral relationship exists between the repeal of DADT and the eventual repeal of DOMA. Both policies were signed into law during the 1990s by President Bill Clinton. Faced with an end to DADT on 2011-SEP-20, Cooper predicted that the Department of Defense will:

"... become the primary change agent for repeal of DOMA, simply because with open service [for LGBT troops], the Defense of Marriage Act will create a stratified system for services and benefits to military personnel and their families."

He suggests that this will create a problem that will need to be rectified. 5

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Results of U.S. News and World Report poll:

On 2011-JUL-20, U.S. News & World Report wrote:

"What do you think? Should the Defense of Marriage Act be repealed? Take the poll and post your thoughts below."

Results, as of 2011-NOV-05 were:

  • 94% in favor of repeal.
  • 6% opposed to repeal.

These results are probably not indicative of the feeling among American adults generally. The people who voted were self selected and do not necessarily resemble a cross-section of the American public. 6

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The story 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. Lynda Waddington, "Grassley, King press importance of DOMA during Senate hearing," The Iowa Independent, 2011-JUL-21, at:
  2. Chris Johnson, "Gallagher: Grassley ‘not referring to me’ in DOMA hearing," Washington Blade, 2011-JUL-20, at:
  3. Chris Geidner, "Senate Considers the Respect for Marriage Act, Bill to Repeal DOMA," Metro Weekly, 2011-JUL-20, at:
  4. Rea Carey, "Written Testimony Submitted to the Committee on the Judiciary U.S. Senate," National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2011-JUL-20, at: This is a PDF file.
  5. Richard Sincere, "Breaking: Log Cabin Republican leader reacts to Panetta's DADT decision," Examiner, 2011-JUL-22, at:
  6. Mallie Jane Kim, "Should the Defense of Marriage Act be repealed?," U.S. News & World Report, 2011-JUL-20, at:

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

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Copyright © 2010 & 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-JUL-20
Latest update: 2011-NOV-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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