This post was written by Nation intern and freelance writer Alana Levinson.
For more than a decade, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by President Bill Clinton, has denied married same-sex couples certain federal rights.
Under DOMA, these couples, even if legally married in their state, are denied social security survivors’ benefits, medical leave to care for a sick spouse, and equal treatment under immigration law. DOMA also prevents states from recognizing same-sex marriages that were enacted in other states, making it difficult for couples to move from state to state.
On September 15th, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), introduced H.R.3567, the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009, which would repeal DOMA in its entirety. Lawfully married same-sex couples would now be protected under federal law and would be entitled to the more than 1,000 federal benefits that marriage confers on heterosexual couples.
While the law would still leave marriage recognition up to each individual state this bill, at its core, is a step towards equality for the LGBT community. As Baldwin said in a press conference detailing the proposal: “The legislation we’re introducing today will legally extend to legally married same-sex couples the same federal rights and recognitions now offered to heterosexual couples — nothing more, nothing less.”
The proposed legislation has the support of 101 Congressional co-sponsors, more than 50 human rights organizations and the endorsement of other prominent officials including, interestingly, President Clinton, who signed DOMA into law, former Representative Bob Barr (R-GA), who authored DOMA, and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.. Please join them and urge your representative to sponsor and support the bill.