News :: Politics

Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Repeal DOMA

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday Nov 15, 2011
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Late last week the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. The Associated Press noted on Nov. 10 that opponents probably don’t have enough votes to pass the bill in the house.

"Today’s historic vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee represents a major step forward in the fight for full equality," New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, said in a press release. Schneiderman’s office is challenging DOMA. The case is slowly making its way through the state’s judiciary.

In a 10-8 vote, Democrats voted to appeal DOMA while all Republicans voted against the appeal. Despite this victory, the repeal bill must receive 60 out of 100 votes in the Senate, but proponents of the appeal acknowledge they will most likely not have enough votes on their side. Additionally, the legislation must be approved the House, which is controlled by conservative Republicans.

With DOMA in place, gay and lesbian couples suffer financially because they do not receive the same government benefits that straight couples do, the AP reported. Gay and lesbian couples cannot file joint federal income tax returns and take deductions. The couples cannot access spousal Social Security benefits, or take advantage of the Family and the Medical Leave law, which protects an employees job and health insurance during a medical absence.

Although President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law in 1996, there has been a steady sign of improvement as Washington D.C. and six states have legalized gay marriage.

One of the bill’s biggest sponsors is California Senator Dianne Feinstein who, emphasizes the discrimination built into DOMA. She claims that a number of businesses have supported the repeal because they need to keep track of a different set of books when figuring out health and retirement benefits, the AP reported.

Iowa’s GOP Senator Charles Grassley said that it is "simply wrong to claim that the bill would create federal benefits for all lawfully married couples. In reality, it would create federal benefits for many same-sex couples who are not lawfully married."

Another of the repeal’s opponents is Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn, who said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has no intention of bringing the bill up in 2011 or in 2012, the AP reports. Cornyn also said that Democrats are trying to appeal to gay marriage supporters for the 2102 election.

The repeal will likely become one of the issues in the 2012 elections and DOMA will be challenged in many federal appeals courts. President Obama decided in the beginning of the year that his administration would stop defending the federal law, which set off many conservatives to make the matter a pressing issue that it be kept intact.

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