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November 03, 2011

Once a Supporter, Sen. Leahy Leads Charge to Repeal Defense of Marriage Act

DOMAHrg1The Senate Judiciary Committee today began debate on legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and replace it with something called the Respect for Marriage Act, setting the stage for a first vote on the measure next Thursday

Leading the repeal effort is U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who voted in favor of DOMA when it first passed in 1996.

At the hearing, Leahy said the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and cosponsored by 30 senators, would restore the power of the states to define marriage "without the federal government imposing its restrictive definition of marriage on the states.

"No one can dispute that the issue of marriage has traditionally been left to the states,” said Leahy, according to a statement released by his office. "Repealing DOMA would return this power to the states where it belongs. I look forward to the repeal of DOMA. This Committee taking favorable action on this bill takes us closer to that day.”

More than 42 states have laws or constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. On the flip side, five states have legalized same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, along with the District of Columbia. Three states recognize same-sex marriages from other states: Maryland, New York and Rhode Island.

PJLSusanMurray1straightVermont, which enacted civil unions in 2000, took the additional step of enacting same-sex marriage during the 2009 legislative session, when it overrode Republican Gov. Jim Douglas's veto of the legislation.

A poll conducted in August, found that most Vermonters said legalizing same-sex marriage has had "no impact on their lives." Sixty percent said it's been a non factor for them personally; 22 percent said it's had a positive effect; and 18 percent said it's had a negative impact. A strong majority — 58 percent — told Public Policy Polling that they are glad that same-sex marriage is legal, while 33 percent disagreed. And even among those who remain opposed to the law, 55 percent admitted its legalization has had no effect on their lives.

In July, Leahy (pictured at the Senate hearing with Vermonter Susan Murray) chaired the first-ever congressional hearing on proposals to repeal DOMA (see video below).  The Obama administration has announced the president’s support for the Respect for Marriage Act.

When DOMA was first debated in Congress, Leahy voted in favor of it. He addressed that vote in his opening comments at today's hearing.

"When I voted for DOMA in 1996, I believed that it was a way to allow states to maintain their independence and define marriage as each state saw fit.  But much has happened since DOMA’s passage to show us why it must now be repealed.  Six states, including Vermont, and the District of Columbia, have now provided the recognition and protections of marriage to committed same-sex couples," Leahy said. "Unfortunately, the protections that these states provide to their married citizens are undermined by the operation of DOMA. The result is that in these states, DOMA has created a tier of second-class families who are not treated equally under the law. This runs counter to the values upon which America was founded."

The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced in March. All 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee support the legislation. A House companion bill (H.R.1116), introduced by U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), has bipartisan support, including 130 cosponsors.

So basically Sen. Leahy is giving the 42 states that ban gay marriage the unequivical right to do so.

"without the federal government imposing its restrictive definition of marriage on the states."

Now that is an interesting political stance...Especially since as we see currently states already do. That "restrictive definition" didn't stop the states that enacted gay marriage. It doesn't alter the fact that for the federal government to acknowledge gay marriage it would have to go to SCOTUS as there is already precedent in place.

Another useless measure by the old guy to make it look like he is doing something. Of course this time he is allowing 42 states to ban gay marriage at their will. Nice Job Pat.

Doesn't he look tired?

I think you got it wrong this time, JCarter. States already can ban gay marriage. The problem with DOMA is that it stops gay marriage from being recognized as marriage at the federal level.

That means gay spouses can't get the federal benefits; other states don't have to recognize their marriage; and for gay married couples where one was born outside the US, he/she can't get citizenship -- as is the case with friends of mine. DOMA is just a homophobic law that should be repealed.

DOMA should go, so kudos to Uncle Pat for that one.

His support of PROTECT IP, however, is totally uncool.

Mull it, this bill doesn't provide for gay marriage at the federal level. As I noted, the SCOTUS has already ruled and until they change their ruling there will be no federally recognized Gay Marriage. As noted above, this law lets the states do as they wish. Something that is occurring right now. This is a political stunt by Leahy.

Does this mean I can marry an international and they get a greencard like heteros do?

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