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Religious Tolerance logo

Repealing the federal "Defense of marriage act of 2011" (DOMA)

2011-NOV-10 to now: Repeal bill passes
Senate committee. Support for repeal of DOMA

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This is a continuation of an earlier essay

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2011-NOV-10: Respect for Marriage bill passes Senate Committee:

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Respect for Marriage bill. All ten Democrats on the Committee voted for the bill; all 8 Republicans voted against it.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement shortly after the Committee vote:

"Today's historic vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee represents a major step forward in the fight for full equality. Our office is challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court over its clear violation of the principle of equal justice under law as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and its interference with New York's efforts to ensure marriage equality for its citizens. We will fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection under law for all New Yorkers." 5

President Obama's spokesperson, Shin Inouye, also issued a statement:

"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." 6

Later, Rebekah Orr, communications director for Equality California, said that she is pleased with the "small victory" but is not optimistic that the bill would become law. She said:

"We’re in a pretty tough legislative environment for LGBT issues. I think that’s pretty clear. …The truth is, this bill may not pass right now, and [Representative Nadler’s (D-NY) bill] probably won’t make it to the House floor." 7

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said in a statement:

"DOMA was wrong when it passed in 1996, and it is wrong now. There are 131,000 legally married, same-sex couples in this country who are denied more than 1,100 federal rights and protections because of this discriminatory law. I don’t know how long the battle for full equality will take, but we are on the cusp of change, and today’s historic vote in the committee is an important step forward." 7

Gov. Jerry Brown, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and 11 other state and local leaders signed a letter in support of the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Governor Brown submitted a separate letter, discussing the 18,000 same-sex couples in California who were legally married before Prop. 8 ended same-sex marriages in the state. It said:

"Regardless of the litigation concerning Proposition 8, the 18,000 same-sex marriages entered into in 2008 are and will remain valid. Californians in these marriages deserve to be treated the same by the federal government and other states as Californians in other valid marriages." 7

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Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) supports repeal of DOMA:

During 1966, Senator Menendez voted in favor of the DOMA bill. But time and further reflection caused him to reverse his position. He wrote:

"Since my vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act 15 years ago, like tens of millions of Americans, I have reflected deeply and frequently about this issue ... for me, this comes down to an issue of fundamental fairness. For me, this comes down to the principles I learned as the child of immigrants and that I cherish as an American: that we believe in equality for all people under the law.

... Across our country, the attitudes of millions of Americans have changed on this issue and several states have acted to guarantee the freedom to marry to same-sex couples whose love for each other and life commitment to one another is no different from other couples.

These gay men and gay women defend our streets and our citizens as firefighters and police officers; they are small-business people who create jobs; they are teachers who prepare our children to compete in the future. And they are soldiers, Marines and sailors who have put their lives on the line for our country, fighting to protect our freedoms and to combat terrorists who threaten to attack us again.

For many years, these millions of committed couples have argued that the freedom to marry — their freedom to marry — is a core civil rights issue. I now believe they are right."

This makes the 33rd senator to support the bill. So far only one Republican member of congress has gone on record as supporting the DOMA repeal: Representative Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who declared her support in 2011-SEP. 8

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Six House members tried to persuade House Speaker to drop support for DOMA:

Six representatives: Jerrold Nadler, John Conyers, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis and David Ciciline -- all Democrats -- sent a letter to the House Speaker John Boehner. 9

They mentioned:

  • Various recent court rulings of the unconstitutionality of the DOMA law.

  • The harm that DOMA is doing to same-sex married couples.

  • The lack of credibility of any claim that DOMA is not constitutionally suspect.

  • That the BLAG lawyers who have been hired by the House to defend DOMA in constitutional challenges should "undertake representation in an objective manner that is factually and legally sound."

  • Overwhelming peer-reviewed research that demonstrates that children raised in families led by same-sex parents are as healthy and well-adjusted as those raised by opposite-sex parents.

  • "Evidence" submitted by the BLAG lawyers that the court described as: "a three-page, non-scientific article by an author with no professional expertise in child development, published by a popular online magazine without peer review."

  • BLAG lawyers making "harmful and baseless arguments that demean [the House's] credibility and that of the American people."

  • Again that they request the BLAG lawyers to brief House members on their defense of DOMA and allow members to express concerns to the lawyers.

  • That House members "... should be concerned that taxpayers dollars are being used to pay costly legal fees to make arguments that lack adequate factual or legal support, in pursuit of a law that is not worthy of a defense." 9

Boehner's spokesperson, Michael Steel, rebuffed the letter, saying:

"Washington Democrats had two years of unified control over the House, the Senate, and the White House to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. They chose not to try. We will continue to respect the law, which passed both Houses of Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton." 10

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This story is certain to continue...

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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. Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, "How will you define marriage?" Truth in Action Ministries, 2011-OCT-27 mailing.
  2. Julie Bolcer, "Cuomo calls for end of DOMA,", 2011-OCT-28, at:
  3. "Senate Republicans should defend the Defense of Marriage Act,", 2011-NOV-01, at:
  4. Chris Johnson, "Senate committee holds over DOMA repeal vote," Washington Blade, 2011-NO-03, at:
  5. Robert Harding, "Schneiderman praises Senate Judiciary Committee's passage of DOMA repeal,", 2011-NOV-13, at:
  6. Waymon Hudson, "Breaking Down the DOMA Repeal Vote: What It Means and Where We Go," Huffington Post, 2011-NOV-15, at:
  7. Aaron Blevins, "Bill to Repeal DOMA Passes Senate Judiciary Committee, Park Labrea News, 2011-NOV-17, at:
  8. "Sen. Bob Menendez voted for DOMA: Now he supports Respect for Marriage," Towleroad, 2011-DEC-18, at:
  9. Letter to John Boehner, 2012-MAR-26, at:  This is another accursed PDF file.
  10. "House Speaker John Boehner Won't Drop Defense Of Marriage Support," Huffington Post, 2012-MAR-26, at:

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Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-NOV
Latest update: 2012-MAR-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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